There are some movies that are a direct product of their time. Pick a movie, and you can see the year and decade it was made to see the influences equal every aspect of the final product. So in a way, movies can be like our DeLorean but in this case we don’t need 1.21 Gigawatts in order to go back in time. Also with those older movies there also comes a view about where we were as a society and how we treated each other, so we can see how far we have come and in some cases how far we still need to go. So what happens then if you make a movie today that takes place in the past, I don’t think it’s a question of the story you tell, I think where things become fuzzy is the eyes in which we view the movie through, it’s like we are watching the past and judging it through glasses of today, and that changes so much. So far Todd Phillips’s new film Joker seems to being viewed like that, but I am not here to judge that, I am here to talk about the movie itself.
To say Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) hasn’t had a good life, is really stating the obvious. Regardless how life has treated him, Fleck’s mother Penny (Frances Convoy) has told Arthur that he is here on this Earth to make people smile and he tries his hardest to live up to that. His method of doing it is by being a clown, but New York City and some of its residents just want to pick on Arthur. He tries to ignore them and plays the part of the good son, spending time with his mother, watching their favorite show, a talk show staring Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). Everyone though has a breaking point, and Arthur starts to reach his when he is cut off from the medication that kept him in more of a normal state. Once off the meds the cracks start to widen and with it unleashing the person that Arthur was supposed to become, which is someone not to joke about at all.
To say Joker is dark and gritty would be a pretty fair assessment. Writes Scott Silver and Todd Philips have created a perfect period piece set against the trash pick-up strike in New York in the seventies. That back drop is the perfect atmosphere to birth this adaptation of one of the greatest villains in print who is just shy of 80 years old. While the story and environment are great, the key to bringing it all together is Phoenix’s performance, it’s one that escapes its genre and is just a great performance, period. Joker is such a love letter to Scorsese films of the seventies like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy but it is also its own thing and a film that will unleash different feelings in different people who see it. What Joker ends up being is a genre busting film, as you can’t put it in a specific category, other than the one that great movies fall into. This movie will leave a mark, from its tone, to the performances, and its haunting score by Hildur Guônadôttir, Joker just might be the movie we deserve now.