Friday, October 18, 2019

Movie with Abe: Joker

Directed by Todd Phillips
Released October 4, 2019

Comic book movies are so prominent these days that it’s nearly impossible to find a truly new and original idea. Some classic characters and stories continue to be explored over and over again, with Batman as a prime example. “Gotham” recently ended and now “Batwoman” has begun, and casting is currently underway for the latest reboot of a character whose last film franchise earned many accolades. Heath Ledger famously won an Oscar posthumously for his transformative portrayal of “The Dark Knight” a decade ago, and it would be reasonable to think that there couldn’t be a more compelling interpretation of the character, yet that’s not the case.

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) aspires to be a comedian, living at home with his ailing mother (Frances Conroy) and earning money by dressing up as a clown and twirling a sign on the street. When he is attacked while at work and subsequently fired, Arthur begins to become fed up with the society that he sees decaying around him, all while billionaire Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen), who used to employ his mother, prepares a run for mayor. Sitting at home watching popular late-night host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), Arthur starts to see the humor in more disturbing ideas.

While this is a comic movie simply by nature of the origin of its central character, it’s much more of a portrait of a man suffering from mental illness who sees the world in a different way than many. Arthur hones in on small moments, like the way Franklin introduces a guest or how his attractive neighbor (Zazie Beetz) looks at him during a short elevator ride. This is a masterful look at one man and his descent into madness, which actually presents a sympathetic picture of someone whose intentions really are good even if he can rarely articulate or effect them.

This film’s success is due in large part to the incredible work of Phoenix, who truly becomes Arthur. This is an amazingly focused and magnetic performance, one that feels entirely genuine even while he is so detached from reality. The unnatural laugh that booms out of him at inappropriate times, due to an alleged medical condition, is particularly unnerving and compelling. Director Todd Phillips, whose previous projects including “The Hangover” and “Old School,” does a mesmerizing job of crafting a story that’s both funny and deeply frightening. This is not a typical supervillain movie, and it’s a fantastic argument for more such thought-provoking and contemplative pieces.


No comments: