Beyond the criticism surrounding the movie Joker there is a story that sets out to challenge the status quo. While there may be some unappetising moments, the difficulty lies in a comic book character lost in genre translation rather than Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. Acknowledging the criticism, I believe the movie successfully portrays a dark and foreboding character.
Director Todd Phillips’ intention is a fresh take on the Joker character and to interpret it in a social realist way so as to delve into the layered depth of the personality. This in itself is challenging because the context is made unfamiliar. But ultimately Todd Phillips is successful in doing so. We are able to see into the troubled past and upbringing that makes up the Joker personality. Scene by scene we are taken on the life journey of Arthur Fleck, a maladjusted loner who’s day job as a performing clown incrementally morphs into the dastardly Joker of Gotham City. Phoenix’s manic laugh can at times seem funny while at others, terrifying. Ultimately he must walk the tight rope between comedy and tragedy and in this way reaches back to Chaplin and beyond. The tradition of the clown is continued here in this latest Joker release with the painted face, weird posturing and dance gestures referencing the harlequin in mime and Commedia dell’arte.
‘I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realize, it’s a comedy’ Arthur Fleck
Director Todd Phillips
Screen play Todd Phillip & Scott Silver
Arthur Fleck Joaquin Phoenix
Murray Franklin Robert De Niro
Sophie Dumond Zazie Beetz