A lot has already been said about Joaquin Phoenix starrer Joker. While I concur with most of the popular opinions, I don’t think Joker is a bad film. It is just a sad film.
We already have tons of films depicting mental illness which end on an uplifting note, but the reality is not always so great. It doesn’t come with an inspirational setting. And Joker tells us exactly that — life can be brutal, and sometimes some people who are not so well-adjusted as others lash out in more ways than one. That said, the film is not without its issues.
Keep it short, please
The Todd Phillips directorial gives us a daring peek into the mind of Joker. While the attempt is brave and the story brimming with potential — it somehow still lacked the punch and felt a tad long. Also, a few scenes were too indulgent. Sequences like the one which shows the Joker dancing in the loo or on the stairs could have been cut and it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference.
Yes, we know that the director is trying to tell us how far off the edge Arthur Fleck aka Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) is, but we already have ample evidence of that, don’t we?
A one-man show
The supporting cast do what they are supposed to do — Robert De Niro and Frances Conroy, as the insensitive talk show host and the problematic mother, are in top form. But let’s face it, the movie rests upon the shoulders of Phoenix, who does full justice to his part, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, seeing how he has proved his talent over the years.
Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker is pitiful, but also frightening. And amidst all that chaos, he also manages to evoke a strong sense of empathy. The Joker has had a hard life after all — bad colleagues, a mother who doesn’t care, and living in an uncaring, selfish world — that could get to anyone after a point.
Phoenix is pathetic when he has to be. As Arthur he wallows in self-pity, as the Joker he takes an averse delight in watching the world burn around him. The stutter, the walk, confusion in the eyes and lack of self-love springs forth from every gesture he makes. I couldn’t find anything he overdid or didn’t do. The actor is hardly to be blamed if the story he is supposed to tell fails him.
Bottomline: Not all comic book characters have to be stylised, flashy and full of over-the-top action. Some can just get away with making a pivotal point about its central character.