Tuesday, February 4, 2020
I finally watched JOKER last night. Boy, that was a film that I needed after a hard day at work (sarcasm).
As I'm sure everybody knows now, JOKER tells the story of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a mentally unstable, put-upon individual who lives a grim, bleak existence in what appears to be an early 1980s Gotham City.
JOKER is dark, despairing, and depressing...but it is supposed to be, so from that standpoint it works. Director and co-writer Todd Phillips uses plenty of sarcasm and irony to try and break up the misery, but most of these moments seem contrived.
Joaquin Phoenix does give an excellent, if at times exhausting, performance in the title role (he's always struck me as an actor who goes out of his way to show the audience how hard he's working). The film has impressive art direction and cinematography, but the story isn't as out-of-left field as some have said (it's very easy to predict what's going to happen during it).
I guess Todd Phillips should get credit for trying something different within the confines of the comic book movie. The thing is, I wouldn't really classify JOKER as a comic book movie, or even a DC Universe movie. Its links to the Batman comics saga are tenuous at best. The film is more of a political or social statement that happens to use the name of a famous super villain (how do we even know that Arthur Fleck is the "real" Joker at all?).
And that leads to this observation--what if the film had the same exact story, but without any DC Comics connections whatsoever? If it didn't have the Joker brand...would it have gotten the same amount of box office success, or critical acclaim?
What I'm trying to say is...if Arthur Fleck was just, Arthur Fleck, how many people would have been willing to spend two hours wallowing in his psychotic behavior?? Is he intriguing because of what happens to him, and how he responds to it....or because we are told he becomes the Joker??