“Joker” film review: laughing into madness

On premiere night at the AMC movie theater in Upland Square, I went with my uncle to see “Joker.” For any WCU student that has not heard of the Joker or Batman, I suggest reading a Batman comic book or even watching the “Dark Knight” trilogy. Though it was a drama film, it had a few laughs in store; no pun intended. Anyway, the film had its moments of capturing the grizzly late-70s Gotham and how life was problematic for their citizens living with social division. “Joker” was certainly not a typical Batman film for young viewers.

Based from its reception in the media, “Joker” presented a violent tone on society that caused proponents to react. According to an article by Ryan Parker from Hollywood Reporter, the family members of the slain victims of the Aurora shooting “signed a letter to Warner Bros, sharing concerns” regarding the film. In how the world is today, it is hard to understand why these acts of violence happen. This might have been one reason why I did not see a lot of people at the movie theater, but it could also have been that it was late at night.

Before I continue, the reader should know that what will be discussed might be part of the plot and distinct comparisons of other Batman films. You are forewarned! The plot focuses on Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix, a mentally unstable man struggling to make a name in Gotham for himself. Contrast from other film representations of Joker, such as the 1989 film “Batman” starring Jack Nicholson, Fleck’s transformation as Joker has nothing to do with chemicals at all. In addition, the film’s plot is a break away from other films that refer back to the comic books as source material.

As the film progressed, I was shocked and in awe of how Fleck’s transformation caused those around him to react. By the end of the film, Fleck was a whole new person. To say the least, I was unsure if the filmmakers intention of making “Joker” was to present audiences with a debilitating issue of our social system or if it had to do with our current political environment.

To rate the film’s high marks, Phoenix, as many film critics have raved, is indeed a great contender for the Oscars for his stunning performance. In my opinion, I would have to wait on my choice for Best Actor as more films keep popping up over the fall and winter. Despite the film’s focus on Phoenix’s character transformation, there was diverse casting in the set — particularly Robert De Niro who played Murray Franklin, a late night comedian. Its art direction and setting was superb since it provided sense of nostalgia of what times were like.

There were a few low points in “Joker.” For starters, the film’s pace took a while to progress. This is in part due to the central focus of Arthur’s transformation. There was a dichotomy between music direction with the film’s plot and the nostalgic time. The film did not have tunes that went with the times, but with Arthur’s persona. In addition, I had trouble understanding the actor’s decision in losing weight for the film. Was he trying to exemplify how a person suffering from mental illness would act, or did he take his role too serious in making it believable?

As for the film’s direction, I felt there was some political motivation in making this film. In the first half, it seemed as if the filmmakers were trying to ridicule our present political environment and issues of gun violence. Through the film, Arthur had challenges in ethical decision making, such as being given a firearm that he did not have a license for.

Overall, “Joker” left me thinking about the film’s particular moral point of the story. In our present world, gun violence is a heated topic, especially in the context of the American public. I do not know why Warner Brothers wanted to produce such a film, but the end result was to get the audience to ponder about why individuals would do terrible acts of violence. The drawback to this approach is public opinion and heated arguments against seeing this film, particularly its sympathy toward the villain. Regardless, “Joker” did make its mark of presenting a far darker tone of Gotham’s notorious villain. For anyone wanting to see “Joker,” I suggest not bringing an adolescent to the film. After all, this is not a typical DC film.

Nicholas Bartelmo is a fourth-year student majoring in history. NB790429@wcupa.edu

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