NEWS / ENTERTAINMENT / CINEMA
It’s undoubtedly Phoenix’s film. His slow transition from socially awkward loner into Rabble-rousing crime prince is utterly captivating and a performance that is already creating Oscar buzz ahead of awards season.
Staring Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro and Zazie Beetz, this origin story, tells the tale of the troubled loner who went on to become Batman’s greatest nemesis The Joker.
The story focuses on Arthur Fleck, a wannabe stand-up comic who lives with his mother and dresses as a clown for his day job.
His mental issues, which involve uncontrollable laughter when nervous, mean Fleck is mistreated and rejected by society. After being brutally beaten and having his regular medication cut off, Arthur’s life begins to spiral out of control, leading him to take on a menacing new alter ego.
Directed by Todd Phillips the man behind The Hangover trilogy, the film marks a major departure from the filmmaker’s usual comedic output.
This is a dark and gritty character study and not something that will necessarily appeal to casual comic book fans. The film, which has more in common with Martin Scorsese films like Taxi Driver, has a slow and brooding pace which builds tension towards its inevitably violent conclusion.
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Joaquin Phoenix, who lost nearly four stone in weight for the film, is utterly mesmerising in the role. His jittery performance is full of nervous energy, while his wiry and skeletal frame gives the character a nightmarish quality.
De Niro stars as Gotham City talk show host Murray Franklin, and is well cast for a role that harks back to his 1982 film King of Comedy. Zazie Beetz meanwhile, delivers an endearing performance as Sophie the compassionate single mother who lends Arthur a sympathetic ear.
The film has received unfair criticism from some quarters for humanising Fleck and glorifying his violent acts. While it’s true that the film makes it easy to sympathise with the character in the early stages, the visceral nature of the violence in the final third results in an unsettling watch and makes it quite clear that Fleck is not a hero to be celebrated.
Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s subtle, string-laden score is haunting and lends itself perfectly to the film’s atmosphere, ominously building tension as we head towards the ultra tense finale.
The script from Phillips and writing partner Scott Silver lays the groundwork and creates a unique vision of this well known comic book villain. However it’s undoubtedly Phoenix’s film. His slow transition from socially awkward loner into Rabble-rousing crime prince is utterly captivating and a performance that is already creating Oscar buzz ahead of awards season.
Joker is a disturbing and thoroughly unnerving experience, but a film that will live long in memory and undoubtedly be dissected for years to come.
Not to be missed.