Movie Review by Rishi Kapoor
One of the finest movies in the recent past and the credit goes to the brilliant award winning performance by Joaquin Phoenix ( Take a bow ).
Todd Phillips’s origins picture about the birth of Batman’s cackling nemesis has become the focus of a moral backlash, with critics using words such as “toxic”, “cynical” and “irresponsible” to describe its relentlessly bitter tone. That such terms should be applied to a populist studio picture from the director of the Hangover movies ( I even liked War Dogs) is perhaps unsurprising.
Phillips has previously struck gold by appealing to his audience’s basest urges with the kind of nastily negative gross-out comedies that he recently complained have been killed by “woke culture”.
Joker is inspired (heavily) by the bleak philosophy of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy; an unrelentingly distressing drama about loneliness and unchecked mental illness. Like Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn in The Dark Knight, Joker has an ace card in the form of Joaquin Phoenix’s mesmerisingly physical portrayal of a man who would be king. Reduced to a skeletal state (think Christian Bale in The Machinist, but worse) by a diet of nicotine and pain. Phillips looks at Arthur, a mentally ill loner, not with judgement, but with a mixture of pity and empathy. Despite his troubles, Arthur — crucially and controversially — isn’t a bad person. He is eternally ridiculed, bullied, and beaten up; living at the mercy of a system that doesn’t give two hoots about him or his ailing mother.
Phoenix’s portrayal of this character, like every actor who has played this character in the past, is extremely committed, whether or not you like the outcome. Thankfully, I think his portrayal is completely different from anyone who came before him, making this movie one that will be able to stand on its own for a long time. From his quirks when the film begins to where he ends up during the final act, each and every moment was riveting. The screenplay of the film keeps it slow-paced while the music to draw in the audience and increase the intensity. More than anything the background score by Hildur Guðnadóttir is used to express Joker’s emotions and the change in his behaviour.
The film is a technical marvel, from the character’s development to its interpretation in every scene, all of it works together to bring a psychological thriller that will disturb you. The film is meant to make you want to take your eyes away, to cringe and to feel bad. It will make you question, Do I laugh at the irony? or do I question my sanity? Joker isn’t an easy film to watch; nor is it particularly easy to understand. It isn’t meant to be. For instance, I don’t for one second believe that Phillips could be tactless enough to glorify a psychopath in the manner that his film suggests. Arthur is most certainly humanised, but he is never idolised. He is a product of the same civilised society that has dedicated itself to pushing him to the fringes of existence and ignoring his frequent cries for help. After an unrelentingly grim couple of acts, Joker transforms into a broad satire towards the end making a statement on society and their perspective. It claims everyone has their side of the story. Truth is the one you chose to believe in.
This is largely a one-man show, and the supporting actors, including Zazie Beetz and Robert De Niro, appear mostly in extended cameos. They’re solid, just underused. I loved nearly everything about this movie, even though it will upset some viewers and make them feel very uncomfortable. In fact, for that reason alone, it has done its job very well. You’re not supposed to root for him, but rather understand where his actions come from. “All it takes,is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy.” And that is all that separates him from the rest of society. One bad day. This movie will now feature in my all time favourite list.