Joker (2019) – That’s Life

The time has come. The time has come when this movie gave us a voice to the oppressed gamers. Society has oppressed them but who knows how many times they fell, they can still rise again. Yeah, I know. Is it time to insert a joke about “we live in a society” kind of thing? By watching this film, you have become an edgy guy who often considers that the world is so cruel. For your information, nobody cares about you and nobody cares about me either. Do you know why? Because we are alone. Well, what do you expect? There is no punchline in the first paragraph anyway.

Man, I started this review with bad humor about this film. Indeed, superhero and comic books movie is just not my thing, to begin with. For some reason, I just don’t feel comfortable with films like that. I mean, you could call me elitist or hipster so that’s okay. One of the reasons why I don’t like films like this is the MPAA rating. It comes at first when my expectation for “Suicide Squad” and “Venom” was very high. However, I have guessed what this movie would be like because of the PG-13. And don’t just throw me away from a pointless argument of “kids want to watch too” sorts or anything.

Yet, it’s hard to say why comic books adaptation aren’t my things. On the other hand, day by day just passed. This movie answered our curious question about the real identity of the Joker. Todd Philips is a guy who directed a lot of comedy movies. He had directed “The Hangover” trilogy and one of my favorites, “War Dogs“. In directing “Joker”, he took many references and influences. He combines two Martin Scorsese movies such as “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy”. Robert De Niro as well starred at both of the movies who cast this movie together with Joaquin Phoenix. It’s a match-made-in-heaven work anyway. You never get again Phoenix and De Niro on the same screen. Plus, I can’t wait to see a recent movie by Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”. It’s one of my anticipated movies just because of the cast.

Everyone knows the Joker, Batman’s arch-nemesis in the DC universe. Even if you’ve never watched Batman, you know who the Joker is. You know him from his face, his smile, his laugh, his manner of speech, his characteristic, and his ideology. Terror is everything about the Joker. He is a terror in the city of Gotham even though Batman is unable to match how complex he is. However, we never know the history behind his clown mask. We get to know how he became one of the criminal brains in Gotham. In “Joker”, he got a standalone film not only about the Joker itself. It’s a character study of Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck.

Every time Phoenix laughs, just put your happy face. However, we don’t know how a laugh is a medicine to hide his true feelings. Arthur Fleck is a citizen of Gotham. The only thing he has is a profession as a clown to entertain people and kids. He only dreamed to become a stand-up comedian and making everyone laugh. Yet, Gotham, or society, oppresses the poor normal Fleck. He has a variety of problems, internal, and external conflicts. He received various threats, such as Travis Bickle, ranging from rat pests, garbage, to other disgusting things. Plus, he has to face his mental health condition.

Arthur is just a charming guy, a clown but not an entire circus. He took care of his mother alone without the help of others in his old apartment. He also had to pursue the career he had long dreamed of. However, he still tried to do his job while facing problems besides taking care of his mother. As time went on, Arthur faced a bitter reality in which he no longer wanted to pretend to himself.

Todd Philips, as the director and producer, said that “Joker” didn’t have any connection from the comic book. He only gives us a reference and connection from the first Dark Knight movie. This is a Joaquin Phoenix universe, giving us another touch from the illustrations of the series. Yet, it just feels so stiff and trying so hard; Philips tries to connect the common thread between the two films. It’s uninspiring to say at least and forced too hard for Phoenix to exist in such a universe.

But, I don’t want to make a comparative in this situation where I’m comparing Phoenix and Heath Ledger. I mean, I don’t want to compare it with Jared Leto either. This film tells the villain, or the anti-hero if you bet, with a different plot and perspective. However, this film can still provide slow, good flow progress, and character development. We get to know what made Fleck transform as the Joker. He is insane, crazy, and psycho conventionally. Reasonably why the Joker is such a character. He is a real character in this world because they exist in the first place.

I can talk about this film from a variety of theories, as student literature. One of them is as the fall of capitalism and the rise of the revolutionary movement. I can also conclude that this is a great character study movie as well as “Taxi Driver”. It gives me a vibe to “You Were Never Really Here” as well. It’s another movie starring Phoenix as a psychopath too. This movie is a reference to any movie you can get especially when you talk about anti-heroes. Besides having many references, I can also use theories of dehumanization, deconstruction, class consciousness, and other theories. If I want to watch this movie for the second time, I might get something new.

A doubt arose from the public when he gets to know that Joaquin Phoenix would become the Joker. There is speculation he would be bad. But, this is Phoenix so I didn’t feel a kick. He starred in so many psychological films such as “The Master” and “Her”. In this movie, Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck lives full of conflict, ironic, tragedy, and negative thoughts. Until in the end, he became a clown, a psychopath clown who brought a new movement to society. It’s difficult to compare also with the actors who have played the Joker. Feels like Phoenix is at its best of his performance. He is one of the best methods actors in this modern Hollywood era.

Fantasy and fiction are the key elements of this movie. Plus, a realistic spice of conflict is the key to character building. The tone is dark, unlike most superhero films or comic book adaptation in general. Like I said, or everyone said, it’s a movie about a character study, more focused on drama. Action isn’t important in this one. Yet, violence is just brutal and it’s there, emphasizing again this is an R-Rated movie. There are a twist and ambiguity at the ending like “Taxi Driver”. But, yeah, too much comparative in this circumstance. The score is very atmospheric and memorable. I mean, just another take when you have to play Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” for five or six times. I mean, the lyrics of the song illustrate the contents of the Joker’s head. So, that’s not a big problem.

So is this movie very worth to watch? Definitely. “Joker” is a gritty movie, a character study not just a limit to the Joker as an identity. This is a great spectacle. If you feel bored with superhero films, this is for you. It’s introducing us to the Joker far from an expectation unless we forget the source material of the comic book. There are violence and murder which I don’t think this movie influenced many people to be like the Joker. Despite the controversy, this is a great movie.

4 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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