Movie Review: Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘Joker’ is a Brutal Portrayal of Mental Illness

Hey everyone, Ralph “The Perennial Aesthete” is here and thank you for joining me today. I hope you all had a happy and safe Halloween as well. Now, let’s get down to business. I have to admit that I wasn’t initially crazy about a standalone ‘Joker’ movie. My immediate reaction to the first trailer to the film was, “come on Warner Bros. Just do a damn Batman movie!” I thought it was a desperate attempt to do something different; however, I had a change of heart after the next trailer and the early, positive buzz that was surrounding the movie before it’s official release.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

The movie was dark, powerfully unsettling and a perfect depiction of the extreme results of mental health, bullying, child abuse and strongly suggests that we are a product of our environment. It also reflects what can happen if mental illness is ignored or left unchecked. Joaquin Phoenix definitely put forth an Oscar-worthy performance. I found the plot and Phoenix’s acting to be superb, mesmerizing and absolute top-tier. As a result of the film’s greatest attributes, it gives you a growing sense of immeasurable anguish and hopelessness as the film progresses to the very end. You just know that by the time the credits roll, it won’t end on happy terms.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

I can’t say that Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the Joker is the best cinematic version I’ve ever witnessed on screen; however, I found him to be the most perplexed. Film director, Todd Phillips, who is most associated with comedy movies, does a magnificent job on slowly and meticulously peeling back the layers of Arthur Fleck’s (Joker) descent into madness. The DC Comics faithful might get rubbed the wrong way, in which I thought I would be myself; however, I was willing to give the film a a chance. I’m certainly happy that I did. It worked very well as a grounded, alternate universe story and it certainly is a must see. The film also seem to pay homage to some of the gritty, crime movies that I remember my parents used to watch from the 1970’s. Joker is certainly a must-see. Leave the children at home if you haven’t seen it and still plan to do so. I give it 4 out 5 Joker masks.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

So it seems like the most glaring question after the ending of the film was whether or not Sophie (Zazie Beetz) and her daughter survived Arthur Fleck’s killing spree in the third act of the film. How did you determined Sophie’s ultimate fate? Another question I have is that was a ‘Joker’ movie even necessary? According to the box office numbers, people answered with a resounding “Yes!” As of today, the film grossed $283.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $588.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $872.6 million. It is the seventh highest-grossing film of 2019 and the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time. Do I smell a sequel coming? Let me know in the comments section below.

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