JOKER: Depraved, Disturbing and Utterly Brilliant

Literally the most anticipated movie of 2019 for the entire Salty Popcorn crew Kernel Ellie scored the most coveted premiere invite of the year. With mostly every other Kernel away Elie waltzed on in with the biggest grin on his face to enjoy Phoenix give a career defining performance orchestrated by Todd Phillips. JOKER on’t be for everyone but it cannot be argued it is a work of talented individuals pushing the envelope and caring more for their art than what test audiences think of their work. As such this is a JOKER film made for cinephiles and one that deserves every award coming its way.

JOKER is out now from the fine folks at Warner Bros Pictures and is distributed in Australia from Roadshow Films. It is rated MA15+ and runs for 122mins. Be warned – this film is heavy on violence but also delves into nudity, sex, a lot of profanity and mental illness. A romcom it is not.

Please enjoy Elie’s best review to date and then do yourself a favour and head out to view one of the best movies of 2019. All the best………..Salty.

Joker Joaquin Phoenix image
Joaquin Phoenix

BY ELIE ELKORR

JOKER SYNOPSIS:

A psychological character study and origin story on comic books’ most notorious crime villain.

Joker Robert DeNiro image
Robert DeNiro

AND THE OSCAR FOR BEST MALE ACTOR GOES TO…JOAQUIN PHOENIX!:

Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the clown prince of crime is nothing short of exceptional. Truly Oscar-worthy. Phoenix does a phenomenal job at balancing the depiction of not one, but two complex characters, Arthur Fleck and the Joker himself. Phoenix’s ability to morph between different facial expressions during scenes captures the tortuous nature of Fleck’s persona. Phoenix’ triumphal performance is at its optimal during Fleck’s chilling spurts of involuntary laughter and moments of ignominy.

Sequences involving Fleck’s humiliation and embarrassment will have audiences cringing in their seats. The experience is unnerving and uncomfortable. Before his physical and psychological transformation, Fleck is depicted as having bought an exclusive VIP ticket to meet the Grim Reaper himself. His character delineates a complete absence of posture as he labours through each lustreless day. This is further compacted when Fleck manoeuvres his striking skeletal structure in unsettling ways; Phoenix having lost 23.6 kg for the role.

Joker Joaquin Phoenix image
Joaquin Phoenix

“We all know what an apprentice eventually does to his master”

Fleck’s transfiguration to the titular clown rescinds his one-way purchase to the hooded figure. He is no longer a victim but an apprentice. And we all know what an apprentice eventually does to his master. Arthur Fleck’s Joker persona is a work of depraved art; his artistic vision was forged from the societal imbalances around him. With his transformation, JOKER transforms.

Fleck begins to wander around Gotham with ease, dancing effortlessly down a flight of stairs he once dreaded the sight of seeing. This is no longer just another mentally unstable individual within society. The JOKER is advertising himself to the world. There is a crescendo, and an uproar from the melodramatic and eerie score depicted early on in JOKER. These scenes are void of dialogue. The pulsating score and Phoenix’s performance elevates JOKER to new heights. Even with the absence of dialogue, JOKER understands that you don’t need words to say something powerful. 

Joker Joaquin Phoenix image
Joaquin Phoenix

A TECHNICAL WONDER:

Director Todd Phillips has crafted a gritty and grounded portrayal of the city of Gotham. The streets are flooded with waste and debris. Abandoned railways and alleyways are drenched with graffiti. The divide between the elite and the impoverished is glaringly obvious. There is no middle class. The marginalised are left to scavenge from the scraps left by the hierarchy above them. These are desperate times in Phillip’s Gotham, and the spark of a revolt is imminent.

JOKER is a film where the lead character and the environment surrounding him works in tandem with one another. Phillips has created a morally and physically decaying world that complements the dominant performance from Joaquin Phoenix. Phillips does a fantastic job at depicting the city of Gotham as a character in itself; gnawing away at any glimmers of hope remaining with the poverty-stricken citizens.

The colour-grading within JOKER superbly reflects the futile atmosphere contained within the lower echelon of Gotham. The framing and cinematography are phenomenal. Phillips captures such a vast degree of substance within a single shot. There is one scene at night where Fleck is seen running through abandoned areas in Gotham. The colour of the lighting shifts within a single take as Fleck manoeuvres between different locations. A sight to behold.

Phillips’ further grounds JOKER with fantastic use of practical set pieces and real locations. There isn’t a hint of CGI or over-reliance on green screen. Hildur Dudnadottir’s resonant score serves as a companion piece to Phillips’ unnerving depiction of a 1980’s destitute Gotham. As mentioned before, there are moments where the score drains out any ambient sound and dominates the theatre as Joaquin Phoenix works his magic. The duet of Phoenix and Dudnadottir’s score is an awe inspiring experience worth the price of admission alone.

Joker Joaquin Phoenix image
Joaquin Phoenix

A MATURE DEPICTION OF PRESENT SOCIETY:

JOKER offers a reflective and nightmarish social commentary on present society. It paints a bitter portrait of a society dominated by a monopoly of billionaire corporations who cannot see beyond the needs of their own desire. Phillips isn’t afraid to touch on other sensitive topics such as sexual assault and political manipulation, making JOKER one of the boldest projects undertaken in the past decade.

Yes, JOKER is disturbingly violent and confronting at times, but JOKER does not glorify these types of actions. Instead, JOKER is an analytical character study about what motivates a mentally unstable individual to undertake such a desolate path. The exploration of the human condition is the forefront of Phillips’ story. JOKER’s methodical pacing may discourage certain viewers; however, these slow burn moments are vital for conjuring the threads for JOKER’s satisfying catharsis.  

Joker Joaquin Phoenix image
Joaquin Phoenix

THE LAST LAUGH:

JOKER’s daring approach to examining the impact of an oppressed society on a mentally distorted individual is a disturbing and emotionally resounding success. Todd Phillips crafts a technical masterpiece that offers a reflective social commentary on present-day society whilst also segueing into uncharted territory for comic book movies. The result is a disturbing character study that delves into the perplexing nature of the human condition. Capped off with Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar-worthy performance, JOKER is a unique cinematic achievement in an age where too few risks are taken within film.

YOUR CRITIC:

Elie Elkorr is a proud film critic and writer for Salty Popcorn. He is a movie fanatic and also runs his own Twitter page for movie reviews and news @TweetEReviews1. He likes calling out movies when they provide social commentary rather than focusing on actual story and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about it. His views are his own. He is also a Law and Film student on the side and is the heir to being Black Widow’s Boyfriend. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.