Living in a chaotic Gotham City, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) struggles to make ends meet, while caring for his mother (Frances Conroy) and attempting to make a career as a stand-up comedian. After having one bad day, Arthur finds himself and begins a path to self acceptance.
Writer and Director Todd Phillips, uses this popular DC villain to tackle a variety of social topics, which are seemingly quite relevant in our current times. Using this commentary, Joker helps audiences raise important questions, while giving a strong and impactful origin to such a beloved and mysterious character.
Phoenix delivers a phenomenal performance as he searches for his purpose in this cruel world. From the slightest mannerisms to the over-discomfort of his chronic medical disorders, Arthur is represented as such a broken and grounded person that his known potential is even more unsettling. Even knowing the inevitable outcome of this character, Phoenix conveys such a compelling take that audiences will hope for his redemption.
Other cast members alongside him include Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin, a late-night talk show host, Zazie Beetz as Sophie Dumond, and Brett Cullen as Thomas Wayne. All of which have surprisingly smaller screen time, but provide quality acting and highly impactful scenes toward the overarching story. Overall, Joker has a small cast, but is a prime example of quality over quantity.
Filled with emotion and a seemingly simple plot, this intimate story untangles many threads and provides curiosity and suspicion among the hand full of characters and their motives. Keeping everything intentionally vague, audiences are asked to use their own interpretation to further tell Arthur’s story as he transforms from a harmless loner to the clown prince of crime.
With that all said, this film is not for everybody. Anyone looking for the next Batman connected installment or in general, the superhero genre, will likely be disappointed. While it has some potentially expanding DC tie-ins, these are delivered more as easter eggs with no real greater purpose. Audiences won’t be getting the CGI bloated action that most are accustomed to either. Instead, they are given an emotionally heavy ride inside the psychological thoughts of someone they might encounter throughout their day.
Joker is in all intent, a stand-alone film and Philips takes it on a dark and uncomfortable course that focuses mainly on the beautiful cinematography and subtle dialogue to reflect on symbolic meanings and deeper thought of an individual’s sanity. Falling in love with Arthur’s arc will feel dirty and wrong, but be assured that Arthur will oddly have viewers sympathising for him and maybe even secretly root for him in the end.