WRITTEN BY ARSH VOHRA
Symposia : 6.2/10
IMDb : 8.5/10
Metacritic : 59%
Rotten tomatoes : 68%
‘Joker’ was without a doubt “The film of 2019”. It won The Golden Lion (the equivalent of first place) at The Venice Film Festival and got a lengthy standing ovation at it’s premier. The film is about Arthur Fleck, a failed comedian who slowly turns into Gotham city's most feared villain. On paper, it looks like a film that's going to take risks and I was excited to see the re imagination of this infamous character. After its release critics were torn on what was one of the most polarizing films of last year.
Gotham city in this film is heavily inspired by 1970’s New York City. This decision makes absolute sense as it goes with the grim aesthetic of the film and reflects the mindset of Arthur. The production design as a whole was well executed but it wasn’t a completely new take on Gotham. The costume design was nothing special, there was literally one costume and brown pants so not a lot one can do with that. Todd Phillips's direction has an uncanny resemblance to Martin Scorsese's work. Some critics even call it a worse looking Scorsese film. The weakest part of this film is its script. While the performances were extraordinary, they could have been more impactful if the actors had a better script to work with.
This film is carried by Joaquin Phoenix, who's performance is excellent. He has such control over the entire scene that I just found myself staring at him and just forgetting about everything else. Furthermore, the score written and composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir is brilliant. It fits perfectly with the atmosphere and compliments the film as a whole. This film doesn’t have a whole lot of dialogue which wouldn’t have been as powerful without the score. To add on, the cinematography was great and Lawrence Sher deserved his academy nomination and the use of a consistent colour was done extremely well.
The film is not plot heavy; it's a character study about how society creates psychopaths such as The Joker. The idea was new and had a large scope to be something different and interesting but it was mostly underwhelming. It is one of those films where the idea is more interesting than the actual film. It was far from original from its below average dialogue to it’s Scorsese looking direction; it didn’t do anything exciting. As I mentioned before, when it came to the technical aspects, nothing was miserable but nothing blew me away. Another major issue is its pacing. Even though Phoenix is terrific, there is only so long you can watch him dance. At one point, it really started to take away from the viewing experience. The bathroom scene is great and I enjoyed it but after every 10 minutes he would start dancing again and it just became less and less impactful as the film went on.
A big flaw of the film is how cartoony the characters are. Arthur's monologue towards the end of the film was so exaggerated that I wasn’t able to take him seriously. The film was supposed to show how dark the real world is, but it fails at this task. Everyone in Gotham is unbelievably evil and apart from Arthur, no other character has any sort of arc or growth and everyone hates their life. ‘Joker’ doesn’t capture the complexities of the world we live in; everything is either black or white. The only redeeming quality of the plot is the relationship Arthur has with his mother and her backstory.
‘Joker’ comes across as a big budget film trying too hard to be edgy. This film needed authenticity, interesting characters and a good script all of which were lacking. This film got 11 Oscar nominations in the departments of costume design and makeup. There was one costume and one makeup look in the entirety of the film; how is that even allowed? Todd Phillips got nominated for best director instead of Greta Gerwig which puzzles me to this day and the fact that they got away with a nomination in screenplay makes zero sense. 2019 was a year of great films many of which went under the radar but an unoriginal, borderline Oscar-bait film got nominated in almost every category shows the massive oversight on the academy’s part.
Todd Phillips tried to do something new by making an R rated DC film but after having watched it I still don’t know why. If you find the idea of this film great then just watch Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ and call it a day.