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Joker (Todd Phillips, 2019)

Date Watched: 10/04/19
Cinema or Home: Cinema
Reason For Watching: Joaquin Phoenix
Rewatch: No.

I usually like to write up films immediately after seeing them - while they're as fresh in my mind as possible - but I've been kind of at a loss for words when it comes to this one.

Joker isn't a film that you watch so much as it is one that you experience. I came away feeling almost shell shocked by it. The film is violent and earned its R rating, but it actually contains considerably less violence than many other movies. What's different here though - and what sets it apart from other comic book movies - is the realism. Joker doesn't target random citizens to make a point about human nature. He isn't playing games. His victims are people that have wronged him in some way and he kills out of revenge and personal pleasure (even to the point of being sexually aroused by the act).

What's most disturbing (and fascinating) about this new clown prince of Gotham, was the change in the man's mental and physical state as he transformed. He actually seemed healthier - not only physically, but mentally - as he continued to kill. As Joker, the man that was the downtrodden Arthur Fleck is confident and even joyful at times.

Of course, what makes that transformation so affecting is the stunning performance of Joaquin Phoenix. In Phoenix's hands Arthur Fleck feels like a fully realized human, albeit one who is deeply damaged and disturbed. But this is no surprise, we know from experience that he can endow even the most repulsive and despicable character with depth and raw emotion and do it in such a way that the resulting sympathy we feel for that character only serves to make him that much more frightening.

But Phoenix isn't the only thing that really struck me about Joker. The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking. The film is dark and sets an ominous mood, but it is lit and shot in such a way that it lends a strange and mesmerizing beauty to the filth and unrest of Gotham.

Yet, even more than a day later, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the film. I enjoyed it, there's no doubt about that and I have immense respect for it, but I don't know if I loved it. I want to love it, but I'm just not there - at least not yet - and I'm not entirely sure why.

I intend to return to the theater to see it again next week, but for now I'll give it a tentative