Discussing the Best Film of 2019: Joker

joker1

Warner Bros. Pictures

We already knew that the new Joker film (directed by Todd Phillips who also directed our beloved Hangover movies) was going to be analyzed and dissected by tons of people. The trailer shows a gritty take on the classic Batman “villain,” reminding many of the extraordinary talent of the late Heath Ledger.

I love going to the movie theaters to to be completely engulfed in the experience. In the Joker trailer, the audience gets a taste of the transformation from Arthur Fleck to Joker – and it’s mesmerizing. I watched the film this past Sunday, and I left the theater feeling weird being in the “real world” again. It’s the feeling I chase.

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Warner Bros. Pictures

The trailer opens with Arthur/Joker saying:

“My mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face. She told me I had a purpose. To bring laughter and joy to the world. Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there?…I used to think that my life was a tragedy. And now I realize it’s a comedy.”

The film explores themes of isolation, abuse, loneliness, and childhood trauma. Joaquin Phoenix gives a harrowing but captivating performance as the film follows his transformation from Arthur to Joker. I’d be surprised if Phoenix didn’t take home an Oscar for this one, but fuck the awards. This film is a lot of things. It questions society’s treatment of people who aren’t like them. It critiques the under-funded social care systems currently set in place. It explores the idea of cyclical abuse.

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Warner Bros. Pictures

In a conversation with the Academy, Todd Phillips said that he really wanted “to do a deep dive character study into one person,” which I believe is a main reason that Joker is so compelling.

A big part of the film deals with the idea of abuse. “Hurt people hurt people.” Joaquin Phoenix spoke with Will King and said the following:

“For me, it was about the enduring effects of childhood trauma. That’s what kind of guided me into this character. I thought it was the foundation – it was the one part of his experience – the story that he’s telling that I believe. And I think that it colors all of his behavior for the entire movie.”

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Warner Bros. Pictures

Joker is complex. It deals with issues – like mental illness – that our society has tried “correcting” in many ways throughout history. In an interview with Jake Hamilton, Todd Philips was asked if it was possible to sympathize with a monster like Joker. He said the following:

“Yeah, I think it’s important. I think, ultimately, the movie’s…about empathy in general and having empathy for maybe those that are less fortunate or those that are left-footed with the world like Arthur is.”

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Warner Bros. Pictures

Phoenix so eloquently gave his thoughts of the film as a whole, which I wholeheartedly agree with:

“I think that it challenges the audience in a way. It challenges our perceptions about our world and about each other. And I think it invites you to engage with it and to participate with it in a way that a lot of movies don’t. It doesn’t provide simple answers or solutions for anything that the character goes through. And it asks you to make up your own mind about what motivates him or what is the cause of this behavior or this transformation. And I think that that’s pretty rare.”

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Warner Bros. Pictures

If there’s any film you watch this year, it should be this one. In the age of cheesy Marvel films and endless sequels, this film is a diamond in the rough. I hope we see more directors and studio executives willing to take a chance on making thought-provoking films like this one.

 

Notes Worth Mentioning:

*If you’ve seen Joker and “liked” it, I recommend checking out the animated and R-rated film, Batman: The Killing Joke. I kept getting a few flashbacks to this film while watching Joker. Watch it.

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