Run time: 122 Mins
Director: Todd Phillips
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen, Bill Camp, Douglas Hodge, Marc Maron, Glenn Fleshler, Shea Whigham, Josh Pais, Leigh Gill
Synopsis: Director Todd Phillips ‘Joker’ centres around DC‘s iconic arch villains and Batman’s greatest enemy is an original, standalone fictional story not seen before on the big screen. Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is indelibly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society. A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night…but finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty, dark, psychological thriller.
Directed, co-written (with Scott Silver) and produced by Todd Phillips [(War Dogs (2016), Due Date (2010), The Hangover trilogy (2009, 2011, 2013)], this Joker confounds and thrills with the style of an art house classic – more than a mere addition to the DC superhero villain’s world. In a breath-taking and totally mesmerising performance, Joaquin Phoenix [You Were Never Really Here (2017), The Master (2012), Walk the Line (2005), Gladiator (2000)] is Arthur Fleck, who in 1981 works as a clown-for-hire and lives with and cares for his mother, Penny (Frances Conroy) in a grotty apartment. Gotham City is rife with unemployment, crime, and financial ruin. The city is collapsing, leaving segments of the population disenfranchised and impoverished. To cap it all, Arthur suffers from a neurological disorder that causes him to laugh maniacally at inappropriate times. He regularly visits a social services worker to obtain medication, but this is under threat of withdrawal also.
His constant refrain is: “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?”
With ambitions to be a stand-up comic, Arthur idolises his hero, television chat host, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) but this fixation only adds further disturbing elements to his troubled psyche.
Forever alone in the crowd, failed comedian Arthur is isolated, bullied and disregarded by society, triggering an embittered, febrile descent into madness, and a transformation into the criminal mastermind known as the Joker.
This allegorical character study has an outstanding ensemble cast including Zazie Beetz [TV’s Atlanta, Deadpool 2], Brett Cullen [42, Netflix’s Narcos], Glenn Fleshler [TV’s Billions, Barry], Bill Camp [Red Sparrow, Molly’s Game], Shea Whigham [First Man, Kong: Skull Island], Marc Maron [TV’s Maron, GLOW), Douglas Hodge [Red Sparrow, TV’s Penny Dreadful), Josh Pais [upcoming Motherless Brooklyn, Going in Style] and Leigh Gill [HBO’s Game of Thrones].
Director of photography Lawrence Sher [Godzilla: King of the Monsters, The Hangover trilogy] and production designer Mark Friedberg [If Beale Street Could Talk, Selma], create a cityscape of bold, crepuscular grotesque beauty. Atmospheric cello music comes from Hildur Guðnadóttir [HBO’s Chernobyl, Sicario: Day of the Soldado].
Joker premiered at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on August 31, 2019, where it won the Golden Lion, the festival’s highest prize.
With intentional homage to films of Martin Scorsese – most obviously The King of Comedy (1982) and Taxi Driver (1976) – this original standalone Joker looks set to be one of the films of the year and a future classic.
IMAGES COURTESY OF: WARNER