WILD. That’s the word I’d describe Joker in a nutshell. I don’t think I anticipated this movie to wow me and I use that word with a grain of salt when talking about it. I was not originally intending on seeing it but I figured I might as well since I’ve been hearing rave reviews for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. I was also interested in just how controversial it is. That being said, I don’t think that the precautions that were made were necessary but if you’re thinking of taking the kids for a weekend movie rethink that. While a glimpse at the trailer could evoke a movie such as The Dark Knight or Suicide Squad, it is no such thing. This movie as cliche as it sounds is really not for the faint of heart. Let’s dive into it.
First off, I want to say that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is hands down one of the best, if not the best movie in the DC superhero canon. Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker is untouchable and this is a hill I will gladly die on. There are several instances in the movie that are callbacks to The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises which were greatly appreciated.
That being said I want to applaud Joaquin Phoenix on a disturbingly brilliant performance. I was nervous to see how an actor other than Heath Ledger would portray Joker but Phoenix was outstanding. I feel like he dove into this part and delivered a performance of a lifetime. His descent into madness was scary good. I can’t say enough about him. But that leaves the subsequent roles which are just that. This is Phoenix’s movie. We don’t get much information or back story from the other characters which was fine but they also employed the likes of Frances Conroy and Zazie Beetz and they were criminally underused. I think Frances Conroy did a great job with what she was given. Given her past performances in different projects I think she was perfectly cast as the senile, schizophrenic mother of the Joker.
I think that also raises the question of if there’s a decent movie if you were to take Phoenix out of the equation. Personally I don’t know if I’d watch the movie if it were anybody else after watching it in its current incarnation. I wouldn’t even know who to cast other than Phoenix and while that could come across as a compliment I think it also isn’t such a positive thing because that would determine the movie as almost a failure if no one were to see it.
As controversial as gun violence and the right to carry is I don’t think that that is the film’s biggest evil. I think that the torture and pain that the title character is put through is pretty heartbreaking. There was even a point in the movie where I caught myself feeling sorry for the Joker. The hardships and pains that the main character has to endure is pure fodder for anyone who has ever dealt with the same thing. This movie, in my opinion, could just as easily trigger someone with abusive histories just as it might for gun violence victims. That’s not to say that either is worse than the other but I think that the constant abuse and torment should be just as concerning and forewarned.
Last I want to address the film’s score. It was phenomenal in that it heightened the film’s jarring qualities but also came off to me as rather abrasive in some places. If you’re hypersensitive to loud noises you have been warned.
All of this to say that although I was impressed with Joaquin Phoenix’s performance the rest of the movie was pretty predictable. I wouldn’t be surprised if Joaquin Phoenix is nominated at the Academy Awards. ( I don’t mean to beat a dead horse but ’tis the season for awards season) I’d say definitely go see if you’re a big Batman or DC fan but it’s also a movie that could just as easily be enjoyed for a fist viewing on the couch.