Todd Phillips’ ‘Joker’ delivers a meticulously attentive, bordering on obsessive and compulsive performance from Joaquin Phoenix.
Both metaphorically, and literally, the empty footwear left behind after Heath Ledger’s iconic tenure as the green-haired, homicidal clown in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight required a monumental pair of trotters to permeate.
In such divisive times, Phillips’ take on this comic-book super villain is no different, divisive in nature, divisive in perception. This screenplay has been the recipient of both scathing criticism and glowing appraisal, in equal measure.
Within the dystopian, super-rat-ridden-realms of 1980s Gotham City, lives an overlooked failure: Arthur Fleck. Sad, lonesome and tortured by his mental instability, governed by uncontrollable laughing-induced episodes alienating him further from the already-divided city, the gap between the rich and the poor expanding day-on-day. Filled with almost-laughable irony: it’d be funny if it wasn’t so sorrowful; Arthur, a man hellbent on making audiences laugh for a living as a comedian, simply cannot comprehend the art of comedy. Robert De Niro appears as the narcissistic, virtue signalling talk show host, Murray Franklin, who is poignantly symptomatic of the capitalist ongoings within Gotham.
Phoenix has established himself quite exquisitely throughout his acting career, placing himself amongst an elite, exclusive group of Hollywood ‘Double’ A-listers: The Master, Inherent Vice, Walk the Line, Her, Gladiator; an irreproachable portfolio Phoenix has amassed along the way to Joker-stardom. Yet, it is in this delicately composed motion picture that we, the audience, truly gauge the seriously subtle intricacy of such performance art, from every change of expression, to every flick of the leg during the ‘that’s life’ waltzing scenes, Phoenix’s utter devotion to the role in itself is enchanting, and so very captivating.
The film of 2019 so far? Most definitely.
Featured image: IMDb / Warner Bros.