Joker Review: Does It Live Up to the Hype?
November 7, 2019
Recognizable by his bright clown makeup and terrifying laughter, the Joker, Gotham City’s most notorious villain, returned to theaters in early October and instantly broke box office records.
Set in the early 1980s of rat-infested Gotham City, the long-awaited origin story portrays the Joker’s alter ego as a depressed professional clown, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix). Due to a medical condition that causes violent, irrepressible laughter, Arthur feels isolated and struggles to integrate into the world around him. His only dream is an unattainable hope to star on a show hosted by comedian Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro).
Unlike its predecessors, Joker does not fall under the category of “superhero” movies and reflects many of the problems in the world today. Joker proves that no one is inherently evil; it takes incredible amounts of bullying and abuse before Arthur descends into an untamed fit of blind rage and despair. Mental illness and his lack of treatment for it also play a part in the Joker’s degeneration. Before Arthur himself realizes it, his painted clown appearance has become a symbol of a violent populist movement that tries to fight against wealth inequality and ends up setting the whole city on fire.
Phoenix takes this opportunity to become the character, from his scrawny physical appearance to his surprisingly eloquent dance routines. Although the acting and soundtrack are on point, the film lacks a clear plot and seems to justify Arthur’s violence as he hides behind his painted mask, resulting in instant controversy. As it draws awareness to issues such as mass shootings and mental health, the movie does not offer any hope and simply did not live up to the high standards that have been awarded to it.
Even with all the controversy, Joker provides a psychological thriller and leaves viewers stunned and paralyzed hours after it ends.