Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Movie Matter: 6 stars
“Forgive my laughter, I have a condition.”
Turns out that’s a big ask in the unforgiving city of Gotham, where laughter (unusual or not) can be seen as sinister.
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Arthur Fleck, a wanna-be standup comedian, who suffers from a neurological disorder that causes him to laugh uncontrollably (PBA syndrome). The citizens of Gotham are not exactly an accepting crowd, and Fleck gets taken advantage of constantly because of his mental illness. The saddest part is, he actually hates laughing and seems pained by it. In an effort to become what he considers a “normal, happy person”; Arthur creates an alter-ego, the Joker.
The Joker’s isolation from society makes him daydream about a happier life. In one of his dreams he envisions himself on his favorite tv show “Live with Murray Franklin”, a talk show hosted by Murray Franklin himself (Robert De Niro). The Joker is searching for his biological father throughout the film, which he believes is either Murray, or Thomas Wayne (Batman’s father), won’t spoil anything further on that matter!
I thought this take on the Joker was fantastic and original because Arthur Fleck didn’t start out as the villain, he became the villain. The Joker was a direct reflection of how he was treated, and a product of the system, which is a metaphor for how many people with mental illness feel today. Director Todd Phillips created the ultimate anti-hero in in the Joker, and I thought the writing was exceptional.
Let’s be clear though, nothing will ever top Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker character in the Dark Knight (2008), which I believe was the best acting performance in movie history. However, I do think Joaquin Phoenix was excellent as the Joker, and his laugh was so convincing, it was honestly uncomfortable at certain points. If I ever do stand up comedy, he’s sitting front row as my personal hype-man. Overall, “Joker” was a solid movie, but it did drag a bit, especially at the end! All things considered, I’m giving “Joker” six stars!