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FilmSoc Reviews: Joker

Posted by FilmSoc on Thu, 10-10-2019

Joaquin Phoenix puts on a happy face in the year's darkest blockbuster
4.5/5 stars

by Jack Kelly 


There are few villains as famous as the Joker. Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter and maybe Hans Gruber are the only baddies that spring to mind that are as iconic as the Clown Prince of Crime. Yet, ask somebody who their favourite Joker is and you're bound to get different answers. Most would say Heath Ledger's defining Joker from 'The Dark Knight', others would say Jack Nicholson's more comedic turn in 'Batman' (1989) - some might even say Mark Hamill's voice performance from the cartoons and video games. (I'm pretty sure nobody would say Jared Leto's dismal performance in 'Suicide Squad') One thing's for sure, however - everybody has their preferred performance. And now, with Todd Phillips' 'Joker', there's going to be an awful lot of people whose definitive Joker is Joaquin Phoenix.

Inspired by Martin Scorsese classics 'Taxi Driver' and 'King of Comedy', 'Joker' tells the story of Arthur Fleck, a down-on-his-luck career clown, who's trying to make it in stand-up comedy. Fleck also has to care for his sickly mother, who he bonds with by watching a late night TV chat show. The backdrop to the story is a crime-ridden Gotham City, much more grimy and poor here than has ever been shown in previous visits to the iconic location. In fact, the whole movie takes the Batman mythos in a much more grimy direction, and comic book fans are sure to be split on some parts of the movie.

Phoenix puts in a career performance here as a man that slowly deteriorates in the face of society. Everyone in the cast puts in solid performances, with Robert de Niro especially looking like he's having a ton of fun. Behind the camera, director Todd Phillips is most well known for his 'Hangover' trilogy. Bizarrely, his work on those films help here with dark humour presented brilliantly. The film's script is incredibly tight, and gives just the right amount of time to the film's more thoughtful moments, before moving onto the next darkly-disturbing plot point.

'Joker' is a white knuckle ride, yet slow and thoughtful. Its acts of violence are sparse, yet when they happen are shocking and appalling. It's the biggest movie of October, yet it wouldn't be out of place at an indie film festival. 'Joker' is unlike any superhero movie you've seen, and unlike any blockbuster this year.

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