Few films this year will unsettle, disturb, and make audiences think as much as Joker.
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Joker focuses on the less-fortunate life of Arthur Fleck, who is newly unemployed, lives with his mother, and deals with an array of mental illnesses. One of them is an uncontrollable, maniacal laugh that Fleck can’t help but emit when he’s feeling other, unrelated emotions. To say the least, most people are uncomfortable around him, and Arthur Fleck is seen as an outcast in society.
Following his firing, however, Fleck goes off the deep end and slowly descends into insanity and violence. He is Joker, as we already know. The rest of the film gets more violent, more insane, and more unsettling.
Drawing inspiration from Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, both Martin Scorsese movies, Joker follows the fixation of a public figure as the main character is knocked down, again and again, due to life’s circumstances. The film, like The King of Comedy, also has moments where reality is blurred. Some of the scenes aren’t real. They’re in Fleck’s mind as he tries to justify what he’s doing. Then it all hits him.
Joker isn’t a movie I would likely watch again. While it stands tall, and proudly so, on its cinematic and production merits, the story is a dark one. The feelings of dread, struggle, and anger can’t help but permeate through the story, and that, of course, is intentional. Arthur Fleck’s life is a tragedy, right to the very end, and there’s absolutely nothing to feel good about what you see onscreen.
With that said, Joaquin Phoenix is likely on his way to an Oscar nomination for his portrayal, and, as it stands, he’s on the shortlist of possible winners. This upcoming awards season, however, is full of talented lead actors, and the race will be competitive — Adam Driver, Robert De Niro, Robert Pattinson, Timothée Chalamet, Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler are just a few of the names being mentioned. And there are plenty more.
Joker is absolutely worth seeing, but make sure you’re prepared for it.