Joker: The Most Divisive Movie Of The Year
“Whether you like it or not, it is definitely a movie that will be talked about for a long time. “
August 31, 2019 was a very special day for comic book fans, as it was the day that Joker was screened for the very first time. The premiere took place at the 76th Venice International Film Festival, where the movie received an eight-minute standing ovation and won the top prize, the Golden Lion. As you would expect, this was an indicator to all cinephiles that they were in for a treat when the movie officially drops in cinemas worldwide in October. After the opening weekend, the movie cashed in a record-breaking $93.5 million domestically and $234 million worldwide. These numbers show just how much people were eager to see their favourite comic book villain get a stand-alone origin story. But did they get what they were hoping for, or was the hype not worth it?
Joker is set in the 1980s in Gotham City, a city besmirched with crime, poverty and unemployment. The focus of the story is Arthur Fleck, a mentally-troubled man working as a clown for a company called Ha-Ha’s, but aspiring to be a successful stand-up comedian. He lives with his mother Penny, who is also ill, and is in love with his single mom neighbor, Sophie. Because of his mental condition he is often frowned upon and rejected by society. His life starts going downhill when he is mercilessly beaten by a group of kids and has his medications cut off, causing him to turn to a world of crime.
The first thing I have to address about this movie is the haunting musical score by Hildur Guðnadóttir, an Icelandic musician and composer, who also composed the score for the 2019 mini-series Chernobyl. You can’t help but feel discomfort every time her work is played in the background. It gives off an eerie and disconcerting vibe and when you pair that with an unaccountable character, you can never really be sure what is going to happen next.
The director, Todd Phillips, previously known for his The Hangover trilogy, did an astounding job in creating a vintage feel for the movie, aided by cinematographer Lawrence Sheer. Every scene looks and feels perfect, resembling some classic 70s movies, for example Taxi Driver, which was, alongside The King of Comedy, a big inspiration for the movie.
It is also blatantly obvious that this movie isn’t supposed to be a typical superhero, or in this case antihero, movie, rather a character study and a social critique. It takes you inside a mind of a mentally-troubled person disregarded by society that focuses only on benefiting itself, with no concerns of how it can affect the little guy. It’s a realistic depiction of society at its worst.
Of course, the movie wouldn’t be what it is without Joaquin Phoenix, a Puerto Rican-born actor, famous for his previous roles in Her, You Were Never Really Here and The Master. He executed an Oscar-worthy performance. You could really see he was fully devoted, mentally and physically, to play this role. He was urged by Phillips to lose a lot of weight and he took it to the extreme, losing 54 pounds (24 kilograms) in a short period of time. Joaquin said: “As it turns out, that impacts your psychology, and you really start to go mad when you lose that much weight in that amount of time.” In the end, I think we can all agree he is a worthy successor to Heath Ledger, who portrayed the mad villain in the 2008 adaptation of Batman, The Dark Knight.
The reason why this is the most divisive movie of the year is because of the polarizing opinions by the fans and the critics. It received an overwhelming response by the fans, who are saying that it is a serious contender to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. When it comes to the critics, it received mixed reviews, with some saying Joaquin is acting too hard, some calling the movie predictable and some saying that it’s just not interesting. Of course, there are a lot of positive critic reviews, praising Joaquin’s acting and calling it a masterpiece. Whether you like the movie or not, it is definitely a movie that will be talked about for a long time.
“Joker is definitely a gloomy and gritty take on the genre.”
It’s fearless, violent and provocative and because of that it deserves its R rating. I felt deeply disturbed and unsettled while watching the movie, especially during the second part. It’s heartbreaking to watch a man’s mind slowly crumble under the weight of society. You can’t help but feel bad for Arthur, even though you know his actions are horrible. But the most terrifying thing about the movie is the fact that this is the reality we live in, a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Written by Marko Plantak