Joker is no joke


photo by Warner Bros. Pictures

The Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix, earned $96 million at the box office in its opening weekend. This is the biggest October opening of all time.

In the midst of rioting chaos, the Joker emerges from a police car with makeup running down his face, his newly green hair is slicked back, and it is the perfect moment that makes you feel like you are in Gotham. After many failed attempts the DC universe has done it, they have found their perfect Joker. 

The movie follows  Arthur Flek, played by Joaquin Phoenix, and his journey transitioning into the Joker. A failed comedian, Flek struggles to maintain his job at  a clown agency while faced with increasing mental health issues. After a series of unfortunate events and a plethora of plot twists, Flek turns to crime to let out his frustrations. This includes a good handful of bloody and outlandish murders that critics claim is a step too far, but a good movie makes the audience feel something intently. Whether it is extreme fear, sadness or laughter, it takes talent to create a movie that can get a strong reaction, and Phoenix exemplifies this through his iconic “Joker” laugh that will leave your skin crawling. Phoenix redefines the term “skin and bones” in this movie. His commitment to the part, alone, especially his physical appearance, will get him in the Oscar conversation. 

 Joker has surfaced as 2019’s most disputed movie, following in the footsteps of other controversially violent movies such as “Pulp Fiction” and “Saw.” With brutal fight scenes and an abundance of blood and gore, critics claim the movie inspires violence from the viewer, but it is the emotion that the film draws from movie goers that makes it special.  

It is the kind of movie where viewers are not sure how to feel. Flek is not a character you root for, but it is hard not to empathize with him as his life unfolds. There are intense moments that leave you wanting to curl up in a ball and disappear, and then there are moments that leave the entire audience laughing. 

From the dimly lit comedy club to the dark and gloomy alleyways, lighting plays a huge part insetting the tone of this film. His apartment has enough subtle detail to leave you squirming in your seat. The bed he shares with his mother, for example, is lit with the static-filled old timey TV and is surrounded by TV dinners from nights passed. These details make a huge impact. 

It is clear between Flick’s multiple trips to the mandated counselor to his flashbacks of his time in the psych-ward that he has mental health issues, and time and time again people take advantage of him for it. It is this treatment, in addition to a few other things that lead to his eventual snap. Joker is not meant to be the spark that solved the mental health crisis, but it might make you question how society treats those struggling with their mental health.

The movie is gaining a lot of attention, and if you want to get your Oscar viewing done ahead of award season, the Joker is a good place to start.