Joker is a triumph with Joaquin Phoenix mesmerising
FILM REVIEW: JOKER (15), THE LIGHT CINEMA WISBECH, OUT NOW
STARRING: JOAQUIN PHOENIX, ROBERT DE NIRO, ZAZIE BEETZ.
RUNNING TIME: 2 HRS 2 MINS DIRECTOR: TODD PHILLIPS
I always try to avoid reviews when I'm going to see a movie but this was so talked about that I couldn't help hearing snippets, the main viewpoint seeming to be that Joaquin Phoenix delivered an acting masterclass in a decent, but not spectacular film. Not totally the case. Yes, Phoenix is mesmerisingly magnificent but this film is far from mediocre - it is an absolute triumph.
And it's not a comic book or a superhero flick either. It's the Joker's origin story but also a chilling look at the world we live in (or did in 1981 when it is set, anyway) and some of the unpleasant people who inhabit it. In short, it's a psychological thriller.
There's not a Batman in sight either, although we do meet Bruce Wayne's father and mother Thomas and Martha... but that's where any similarities end. No, Joker is a film about Arthur Fleck. A man perpetually down on his luck, living in a shabby Gotham City apartment with his elderly, infirm mother and struggling with mental illness.
Phoenix's character is awkward and disarming, naive yet unsettling. He's struggling to make ends meet as a clown and has aspirations of becoming a stand-up comedian. But his life spirals out of control after two savage beatings and mayhem ensues as we are catapulted to an uproarious climax.
With such a wonderful performance by Phoenix and with his character so dominating the plot, there is little room for other actors to shine. Robert De Niro as talk show host Murray Franklin and Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2) as single mum and Arthur's purported love interest Sophie Dumond both do their jobs well but this is not their stage to star on. There are similarities to one of my favourite films - starring De Niro - Taxi Driver, in the way a repressed loner strikes out against the world, but to compare it with anything would be to do it a disservice. This is a wonderful film and one I think will be even better given a second watch, where the viewer can revisit some of the twists and turns we learn along the way.
By Jeremy Ransome Rating: 9/10