Updated: Jan 18, 2020
Joker was fine. I think it had some well crafted moments, and the acting from Joaquin Phoenix was tense and impressive, but I wanted more from a movie that said it was going to be different from the other comic book movies. I wanted it to say something important, and it didn’t. So I guess I was impressed visually, but disappointed when it came to the movie’s ‘meaning’ or ‘purpose.’
Joker tells the story of Arthur Fleck, a socially awkward and (by the end) mentally deranged man who would become the infamous villain from the Batman comics. It’s an origin story for Joker, which is new for the character. Usually his beginnings are left a mystery, or left ambiguous as he tells people different, conflicting stories about how he grew up. But Joker tells a concise, straightforward (maybe too straightforward) story about Arthur, his life, his struggles with mental health, and his downfall into madness.
I’ll start with the good. This movie really is beautiful looking. Every shot portrays Gotham as a dreary, unkempt city, and Arthur as sickly, almost like he’s dying. I guess the ‘vibe’ of Joker is really well depicted, and that’s apparent in the music as well. Phoenix was also terrifying, like I said, but the stories I’ve heard from the set make me roll my eyes. A truly good actor can turn it off, that’s all I’ll say.
But what I think Joker wants me to do is sympathize for Arthur. And at the beginning, and almost all the way through Act II, I do. He’s had an awful life that was bound to put him in a bad spot, mentally, and the rich and powerful of Gotham have ground the city down to its bone, sucking the life from it as the poor and marginalized are left at the bottom. But then he snaps. And of course he was going to snap — the movie is called Joker — but a smarter film would have found a way to condemn his actions while we watch him descend into villainy. Or have him fail in the end. Instead, they glorify his violence, and ask you to join in on the cheering. And in the last 20 minutes, the story loses all its meaning.
So eh. I wanted something more. I wanted it to drive home a point, and it just skirted the line.