In Joker, failed comedian Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) works as a clown to pay the bills and lives at home with his sickly mother. Beaten down by a society coming apart at the seams, Fleck struggles to maintain a positive outlook yet desperately wants to make people laugh. Struggling to find his way, Fleck soon begins to act out his frustrations in increasingly violent ways as he slowly transforms into the criminal mastermind known as the Joker.
Written and directed by Todd Phillips, Joker feels like an unexpected twist in his career trajectory. While the film is bound to be divisive due to its dark themes and violence, Phillips has created a character arc so compelling that every scene feels like a vital piece to the most complicated of mental puzzles. Added to the mix is Joaquin Phoenix who absolutely shines as the hopeful but hurting Fleck. In an Oscar-worthy performance, Phoenix is simply mesmerizing as the failed comedian, giving him a likeable quality amidst his brokenness that makes you want to root for him (until you simply can’t anymore).
Despite its bleak outlook on the world, Joker truly is one of the years best and most creative films. Phoenix’ performance as the Clown Prince of Crime may take him to dark places but there remains a brokenness within him for much of the film which humanizes him. Pressure from all sides to succumb to a culture of despair, Arthur Fleck’s journey is less of a comic book film and more about what happens when a world fails to listen to those who need it most.
Joker had its North American premiere last week at the Toronto International Film Festival and laughs its way into theatres on Friday, October 4th, 2019.