Joker (2019)

by Film Notions

I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realize, it’s a comedy.’ Todd Phillips has rendered the complete opposite. Known for such comedies as The Hangover, Old School and Starsky & Hutch, Phillips has departed from comedy and has gone full-blown tragedy. And he nails it!

I think the best quote in the film, and the one that really shines a light on its message is something Arthur Fleck writes in his journal. ‘The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.’ Joker, at its core, is not a comic book film; it’s a comprehensive introspection into mental illness.

The feel of the movie, to me, is slightly reminiscent of a Nolan type Batman universe. The sets, the cinematography, the score. With its obvious dark undercurrent, I felt like this could easily have been a twisted little brother of The Dark Knight trilogy. I think it really fits in, in its own weird way. There are also some questions raised and changes made to the origin story that certainly gives new thought to the Joker and Batman relationship.

The question was asked in regards to Joaquin’s performance up against Heath Ledgers. For me, it’s incomparable. The story is so different, this era of the Joker’s life, years apart. Years that change and affirm one’s beliefs and actions. Ledger’s Joker is fully fledged, while Joaquin’s is still a far more human Arthur Fleck. That being said, I can definitely see this Joker transforming into The Dark Knight’s Joker, in the years that would pass.

I didn’t want to get into the controversy of the film, but it’s hard not to. The themes of Joker will be nothing but polarising I’m sure of that, especially in America, and that’s due to the real set of issues America faces right now. Some will find it hard not to look at themselves, but cast blame everywhere else. Video games, violent movies. It can’t be, that we don’t have a competent system in place to really help people with Mental Illness. It can’t mean, we need to make changes to the system.

This isn’t the first film to broach this topic. It’s no new thing. I’m going to borrow a thought from @nickflicksfix, with whom I watched the film. He said all I could think about throughout the film was Taxi Driver. I couldn’t agree more. 44 years ago a film with an almost identical theme was released, and it has become one of the all-time greats. Arthur Fleck, like Travis Bickle, is a lonely man, who is seemingly lost between the cracks. He’s rejected by society, and the result is detrimental. In 2019, these themes are even more important to look at. Things haven’t got any better and our sense of community has diminished.

I can’t help but feel if this wasn’t a comic book film, it wouldn’t be getting the same reaction. If this were a true life-based story, it may be getting praise for bringing up such important issues. This is 100% my favourite type of comic adaptation. Dark & gritty drama. Like Logan, It’s always a welcomed change. If DC & Warner Brothers are contemplating this angle I’m all for it. Let Marvel do its thing. Let’s get wonderfully dark DC!

Joker deserves nothing but 5 stars. With an outstanding Oscar worthy performance at the forefront, it’s an extremely accomplished film that tackles hard & controversial themes. For the comic book fans, it gives a dark new interesting take on the origin of Batman’s arch-enemy.