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TIFF 2019 Film Review: “Joker” (2019) ★★★★★


© 2019 – Warner Bros. Pictures

Perhaps “Joker” is one of the most difficult reviews I will ever have to write as what it explores is real. Yes, it does talk about the man and how he turns into the most fascinating and terrifying villain that has been impressively portrayed by the likes of Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto. So how much do we know about any individual person who is already psychologically unstable, yet, being pushed hard by the society by its issues to create such an evil? There is no justification for what Joker did before and after he became who we already know by now. However, this film provides food for thought we all must carefully process.

The film follows Arthur before he’s reborn as Joker. He works as a local clown, stands outside of a store with “For Sale” signs, or entertains children. The man has a condition – he gets a sudden laughter he cannot control. Looking after his elderly mother, the man does everything possible to follow his dear mother’s advice – no matter what, always put a smile on your face. But the problem is, no one except his only relative is interested in what he has to offer and begin either mocking or physically harassing him. At some point, he will realize only fighting back can help him to stand tall each time when someone attacks; the result of it will be devastating enough to not be able to undo the damage done to the society.

The film opens with Arthur, who sits in front of a mirror, forcing himself to smile. After dressing up as a clown, the man goes out to do his job by standing in front of a local store in Gotham City when the sign Arthur held in his hand, “Everything must go”, was stolen by a group of teenagers. Arthur runs after them to get back the sign as it could cause him to lose his job but was struck unexpectedly b the same young men that broke the sign on him and began beating him up viciously with anger on their face. Left alone on the ground, Joker is puzzled as to why he is in the situation he never invited himself to.

“Is it me or it’s going crazier out there”, he asks his case-worker or the psychiatrist. The woman’s explanation is quite shocking, “People are struggling. They have no jobs or money.” But the question is, what did it have to do with a mentally ill man who is on the edge of going completely crazy? Another interesting character revelation is when we read his diary in which he states, “ I hope my death makes more cents than my life,” already explains Arthur’s personal struggle with an already unstable society. As we watch him, it appears that all that he needs is a hug, love, and care but instead he gets violence.

One of the most interesting scenes is when Arthur, on a bus, entertains a little boy quite genuinely. The boy responds to him with a smile and so did Arthur. However, when the boy’s mother realizes her son’s interaction with the stranger, she yells at Arthur as if he was doing something wrong while all that he was doing was giving attention to the little child while the mother was occupied in her own thoughts. Scenes like these are too many to list them. And even if I do that, it will be a huge spoiler and I would not want to ruin your own experience.

“Joker”, directed by Todd Phillips is a brilliant film about an iconic character who is largely disregarded by society. When he says that all what I have is negative thoughts, nobody pays attention to his words. But when he finally had to stand for himself after almost getting killed by three men in the train, he quickly turns into a hero in the eyes of the same people that are disregarded by the same society. This is when Arthur realizes his power of existence whereas he once thought he’s invisible to everyone. All that would not have happened if you did not have to claim three lives in self-defense, but that’s what happens when you give an opportunity to someone to thrive as an individual is no longer capable to do a good thing to others, as he realized he is more loved when he is bad instead of good.

As for the performance, it’s needless to stay what Joaquin Phoenix does with the Joker. Every move, every line he delivers is full of symbolism that captures the true color of society. Direction and soundtrack are both exceptional, thorough, and refreshing. As for the takeaway from this standalone film of Joker that has never been done before, we learn a few things – when there are no jobs and no money, happiness is replaced by madness and poverty is the only companion with no food to eat. Some people with no recognition whatsoever find an alternative way to satisfy their hunger and the lack of acknowledgment in society through committing crimes and that’s the undeniable ugly truth.

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