THIS REVIEW HAS SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN “JOKER” DO NOT CONTINUE READING THIS REVIEW.
I wasted money on fries I didn’t eat. My icee kinda melted and turned into juice but as I sat in my car at 4:43 pm I didn’t give a fuck about none of that shit. I felt really disturbed at what I just witnessed in the movie theater. How did I get so lucky?
Out the gate you see Arthur Fleck (Joker) stretching his mouth with his hands to make himself smile to the point he has tears running down his face. Immediately the psychological tone was set for the film. I knew I was about to see some weird ass shit.
This was a film I didn’t have any expectations for. I didn’t see any trailers. I didn’t read up on it. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past 2 years. I only give a fuck bout my opinion no one else. I just saw Todd Phillips was directing which I thought was weird because he directs comedies. He directed “Old School” and “Hangover” which both are all time favorite movies of mine but I saw that Joaquin was in it and I said “Say less.” I already knew what time it was.
Joaquin Phoenix is masterful in this film from start to finish and I knew he would be because Joaquin just doesn’t offer his services for any and every script. Something in this script spoke to him and he was all in. He really gives a fuck about his craft. He’s not an actor who just hones in performances. If you’re lucky to have him in your film he elevates it. He shows this in portraying Arthur Fleck. That laugh he does is fucking brilliant and it’s actually a real chronic condition and that in itself is creative as fuck writing wise. When you see him laughing and grab his throat and chest he’s really in pain. It makes me wonder why didn’t anybody ever go that angle with previous Joker roles. The Chronic condition angle was beautiful writing. *Chef’s kiss*
In the beginning of the film you see that Arthur is a guy who would seem is in a hard place. Shitty job at a clown agency. Living with his mother. He’s on 7 different types of medication. He’s mentally ill yet it seems that Arthur is content with his life. He actually likes his job. He wants to be a standup comedian. He has a good relationship with his mother. He got the shit beat out of him by kids while he was working and he still liked his job. He was a guy who was making an attempt at normalcy as best as he could. The only person who truly knew that Arthur needed help was his therapist. Once Arthur gave her his notebook and it was full of graphic nudity and suicidal thoughts I think she understood how bad his mental health truly was.
After Arthur’s beatdown is known by his co-workers one of his co-workers gives Arthur a gun to protect himself and as a viewer you know instantly that this is a mistake because one we know what he inevitably becomes as fans of Batman and two you saw up until that point that Arthur is not mentally stable to own a gun. He shot a hole in his wall playing around with it and then brought it into a children’s hospital and dropped it on the floor. He was fired from his job instantly and that was the breaking point for Arthur. Well at least in my mind it was. He also met his neighbor Sophie somewhere in all of that and Arthur then follows her on her way to work and Sophie comes to his apartment and tells him that she knew that Arthur was stalking her and Arthur invites her to his stand up performance. Thought this was stupid cause no black woman is having that shit. Weird moment.
Arthur is on the subway on his way home after being fired and 3 rich guys who worked for Wayne Enterprises were harassing a young woman and I believe they would’ve raped that woman. Arthur sees this and starts laughing uncontrollably because of his condition. They proceed to assault Arthur and I’m thinking at this point that Arthur is going to keep getting his ass beat until he snaps and out of nowhere Arthur shoots and kills 2 of the guys on the train and then chases the 3rd guy and shoots and kills him. You get the sense that Arthur enjoyed shooting these guys because it felt like power to him. Especially with him chasing the 3rd guy and shooting him execution style. This scene is amazing and it’s what makes this film so fucking beautiful. The film plays tug of war with your morality. Arthur did something terrible by killing those guys but you felt good that he did it because you felt like they deserved it. They were dickheads with money who got more than they bargained for but morally thinking that is wrong even though we have no clue how far they would’ve taken the beating they were giving to Arthur. What Arthur did was self defense but would government officials in Gotham City see it that way?
Let’s say hypothetically that Arthur turns himself in for the 3 murders and claims it was self defense do you think they would give a man like Arthur the benefit of the doubt? Even though up until that point Arthur was a man who’s never harmed anyone and was actually a caring individual. They would’ve hung Arthur in court because Arthur is nothing. He’s the bottom of the barrel in terms of social class in Gotham and those young guys were upper class. That’s a conversation that this film sparks also and that’s why this shit is so brilliant. Society forced Arthur’s hand and instead of condemning him as a viewer you sympathize with him even when he’s doing horrific things. It’s like I said this film really does a number on your morality.
Arthur runs away from the subway into a public bathroom and he performs in the mirror on some Black Swan type shit and you feel the power shift. It feels like Arthur has control of something for the first time in his life. He took his fate into his own hands. Then he goes to Sophie’s apartment and smash some cheeks which I thought was really stupid and was unnecessary but whatever. I’d lick hot sauce off Sophie feet so what do I know. Arthur is in control now so he’s going for everything he feels is his. He then returns to his therapist who informs him that the funding is cut for the social services program which leaves Arthur without medication. Another huge cause for concern. Again the film highlights the social class construct and how critical it is for people in poverty like Arthur. The rich don’t care for people like Arthur which is why you see the poor people riot and justify the subway murders. They don’t give a fuck about the poor so why should they care about 3 rich kids? Arthur is a mentally ill poor man who takes care of his mother and her knight in shining armor is Thomas Wayne (Batman’s Dad) so he’s basically alone. His mother Penny is obsessed with Thomas Wayne to the point she expects letters from Thomas Wayne.
There’s this scene in the comedy club where Arthur is taking notes of a veteran comedian and Arthur always laughs when no one else is laughing in the club and to me it symbolized what Arthur would eventually become. He lives in his own world. He’s off spectrum. There are no rules. You see that he just lives in this spiral of unpredictable behavior and it just gets deeper and deeper as the film goes on. When he actually does do his standup routine it’s a complete train wreck cause he can’t stop laughing. At that point I didn’t know if it was his chronic condition causing the laughter or that he was just already insane. I’m thinking it’s more of his condition.
Arthur then reads a letter his mother writes to Thomas Wayne and in the letter he finds out that he’s Thomas Wayne’s illegitimate child and erupts at his mother for hiding the truth. This is where the unraveling begins and the moment of clarity for Arthur starts. I think this was the moment that was the foundation for him snapping in the future. I will say that I didn’t like the thought of him and Batman being brothers so I wasn’t a fan of that moment but this film twists are so well done that I always eat my criticisms. Penny ends up in the hospital due to stroke and the police come question Arthur about the subway murders. Arthur then visits Thomas Wayne’s property and he meets Bruce Wayne and this was one of the most creepy scenes in the film. Arthur puts his fingers in Bruce’s mouth and forces him to smile. I was like what the fuck is happening right now? It almost makes you squeamish. Alfred intervenes and Arthur runs from the property but due to his persistence he meets Thomas Wayne at a concert and confronts him about being his son. Thomas immediately refutes the claims and tells Arthur that his mother was batshit crazy and that he was adopted and proceeds to punch Arthur in the face for touching his son and walks away.
Arthur then goes to Arkham State Hospital and this scene was important because he admits to the clerk that he did some horrible things but he didn’t feel bad about it. Which makes what I said before valid. He enjoyed killing those men on the subway. Arthur then steals his mother’s files and he reads that Thomas Wayne was telling the truth. He was abandoned then adopted by Penny. He was neglected and abused physically and mentally by his adopted mother and her boyfriend. And after he reads that he officially snaps. He returns to the hospital and kills he mother like a prime Eminem verse in 2002 and it’s at that point where Arthur doesn’t give a fuck about anything anymore. He accepts what his life is. It’s a joke. Joker was born in that hospital room.
Arthur goes to Sophie’s apartment and she is clearly frightened by his presence as if she doesn’t know him and the twist is that she doesn’t. The scenes we saw with Sophie hanging with Arthur were all illusions in his head. Just like his mother created this life with Thomas Wayne. This scene satisfied me because the corny and forced relationship didn’t really exist and I didn’t have to question the fact a black woman allowed a man who looked like a pedophile who drives a white van with no windows around her child and was okay with a man stalking her all over the city. I was relieved that the relationship was false because it was pointless. Arthur then leaves the apartment and you have no idea if he killed Sophie or let her live. I’m okay with that.
Arthur is then invited by the Murray Franklin show as a guest because of his terrible stand up act and when you see him rehearsing in his living room and he says the knock knock joke and then pulls the gun out on himself you get the indication that he’s going to commit suicide on television. I thought that since his former therapist read his suicidal quote to him. Arthur’s former co-workers come over and question him about the subway murders. Arthur murders the co-worker that gave him the gun in brutal fashion. I LOVED this scene because this was some Joker shit. This was the greatest Joker moment in any Batman movie EVER by a fucking landslide. Stabbed him in the neck and his eye and bashed his head in repeatedly against the wall and then sat next to his dead body with his blood smeared on his makeup. Then the midget guy is scared for his fucking life because he knows he’s about to die. But this is what makes this scene so fucking frightening. You have no idea what Arthur is going to do. He tells the little guy he’s not going to harm him and then jumps at him in laughter and then the top chain lock is locked and it’s too high for the little guy to reach it and even at that moment you’re on the edge of your seat because you STILL don’t know if Arthur is going to kill him. Arthur unlocks it and lets him go free. Such a chilling scene. So perfect. That scene defines what The Joker is. He just does shit.
When he asks Murray to introduce him as The Joker I thought that was brilliant because it’s the same name Murray insulted him with and you just feel something epic is about to happen. The makeup is on. The ugly ass suit is on. Shit is about to get real. The moment he’s introduced you see the confidence Joker has. He kisses that old ass lady and it feels like it’s his show now. He tells a horrific joke and everyone is appalled and it reminded me of him laughing in that comedy club when no one else was laughing. He then admits that he killed the 3 men on the subway and why it was justified. He then goes in on society hypocrisy and how he’s always been the joke and at that moment I said he bout to kill this man on live TV cause it’s what Joker would do and of course he shoots Murray in the head and then starts talking into the camera and that is the SECOND greatest Joker moment in the history of films.
You see the riots started by his actions. You see The Waynes get murdered for the 50th time. I guess they’re doing that to lead into the Batman film but I highly doubt Joaquin would do a Batman film. That doesn’t seem like his cup of tea. Anyway you see Joker in the back of the police car laughing at all the chaos he’s caused and an ambulance smashes into the police car and 2 men in clown masks pull him out and place him on the hood of the car. He finally awakens and stands on top of the car and is praised by all the rioters and he smears his own blood on his face to resemble a smile. Beautiful bruh. Fucking beautiful.
We then see Arthur in Arkham and he’s laughing uncontrollably and the doctor asks him what’s so funny and he says you wouldn’t understand. At one point Joker wanted to be a stand up comedian now he doesn’t care to share his humor with people. He knows they’re not the same and never will be. He leaves with a trail of bloody footprints which implies he kills that doctor and he’s chased by security in the hospital. The film ends there. I would’ve cut the film when he told the therapist “You wouldn’t get it” and then just cut to a black screen and let the credits roll.
With all that said. How did we know that this all took place? We already found out the relationship with Sophie was his delusion. He stopped taking meds so we don’t know if that had any effect on what we saw as viewers. We saw the scene with him being in the audience of Murray’s talk show wasn’t real. His therapist informed us that he was in Arkham before he met her and we saw him beating his head on the glass. The Arkham he went into had yellow walls and was run down but at the end of the film Arkham was whiter then a Trump rally. Did the murders really take place? Was he really this driving force of the riots we saw? What if the doctor he likely killed at the end of the film was someone he was telling a story to and the whole story was made up? We saw his mother make everything up so it’s possible he’s doing the same. I don’t believe the end was a flashback because they wouldn’t let him out of a Arkham if he harmed or possibly killed that doctor. Joker is unreliable and you find yourself questioning the reality of everything he went through in the film.
When the film got to the Joker’s appearance and murder on the Murray Franklin show I was just thinking “How the fuck did we get to this point?” Because you literally get lost in this film in a good way. I also asked myself “Could this have been prevented?” If society cared, would Joker exist? This is what makes this film so great. It does the little things so well. We see the Joker’s birth step by step and piece by piece. I had no questions at all. From his childhood to the murder on the Murray Franklin show I see how this monster was born. Then the morality factor I’ve mentioned. You feel sorry for this man because in a way society pushed him to this point. You feel sympathy for someone who smothered his mentally ill mother in a hospital. It makes you leave the theater questioning if you’re a good person because you feel sorry for Joker. It also makes you question the role you play in society in creating people like The Joker. How many people could honestly say they give a fuck about people like Arthur in real life until it’s too late? This is a movie that is about perception and on that basis anything is possible.
The last 30 minutes of this film is a horror movie. It goes from a drama to a thriller to absolute horror because you have no idea what he’s thinking. You at least could predict Arthur. You have no fucking clue what Joker will do. He’s psychotic and he lives second by second. There’s method to his madness in a twisted way and that’s what makes it horrifying. You see people who don’t know comics and often wonder why Joker is feared when he’s just this skinny mothafucka who laughs all the time. This movie answers that question. Piece by piece you just see this man evolve into a monster who lives a life of crime.
I know people think Heath Ledger has the GOAT Joker Performance. I’m here to say he has company and it’s legit. This is facts. I think Heath’s is more iconic because it’s been a decade since the performance. I think Joaquin’s was a better performance because he showed more facets of The Joker. Now their performances are different because Heath was just Joker and was in one gear the whole film with the help of Batman. Joaquin played LAYERS. He played Arthur Fleck brilliantly then played The Joker brilliantly. He was apart of a character study. No one could’ve pulled off that performance except Joaquin. He owned it. Every scene he was in was flawless acting. An absolute clinic.
Robert DeNiro is my favorite actor ever and he could’ve just done what a lot of legends do and not take the role seriously since it was a small role but he didn’t. He really did outstanding as a late night talk show host and I loved his dialogue with Joker at the end of the film.
The cinematography was fucking amazing. The colors. The shots. The refrigerator scene in his apartment was chilling because you felt like someone was in there with him. When you see how that staircase next to his apartment building is used and the symbolism of it you know this film is in another league. Joker had many days where he was defeated, beaten, and at his lowest point and had to use that staircase. Then you see him in the final act of the film dancing on that same staircase feeling completely free. Gotham City beat his ass day after day and he finally was at a point where he was ready to return the favor to Gotham. The musical score was perfect. The music was so heavy. The writing took risks. As a writer I was jealous watching Joker cause I wish I wrote it. This movie made you feel uncomfortable, uneasy, awkward, the pacing was perfect I didn’t feel restless because I was in awe of Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. The relentless anxiety Arthur was going through. The feeling of PTSD Arthur had from his entire childhood. His body was malnourished and he always looked hungry. The isolation he always felt.
I loved this film so much and it was the best film I saw this year. Any film that sparks this many conversations after seeing it is proof of good cinema. It’s the 2019 version of the film “Taxi Driver” but with the most iconic villain ever. I will definitely be seeing this again and purchasing it.
The best 3 comic films ever are Joker, Logan, and The Dark Knight. I’m standing on that shit.
When you give Joaquin Phoenix his Oscar can you introduce him as Joker?
5 outta 5 Fruit Snacks. GODLIKE!