Joker (2019) Review


Justin Peters, Entertainment and Arts Editor

Joker (2019) is the origin story we deserve. If you want an intense action flick where Joker becomes The Clown Prince of Crime and fights Batman, then you’re out of luck. Batman is nowhere to be seen in this movie, and it’s great. Unlike recent films in the DC Extended Universe, I wouldn’t call this one a “superhero movie,” since it’s more of a character study of one Arthur Fleck.

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) doesn’t turn into the Joker by falling into a vat of acid or something silly. Instead, he works at a clown-for-hire company, a job which he loves. He takes care of his mentally ill mother (Frances Conroy) and he suffers from pseudobulbar affect, a disorder that causes fits of uncontrollable laughter at any time. He enjoys watching his favorite talk-show host, Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro) and talking with his neighbor (Zazie Beetz). When a series of unfortunate events rock Arthur’s life, he, and the rest of the city, go into a psychotic break that incites murder, riots, and of course, clown-masks.

The movie belongs to Joaquin Phoenix. His performance could rival Heath Ledger’s take on the Joker in The Dark Knight in terms of bringing something new to the character. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that he will win an Oscar for this role. He’s funny, he’s disturbing, and he’s one hell of a dancer. Everything a Joker should be.

Part of what makes this movie great is that it isn’t always clear whether some scenes are real or just in Arthur’s head. Some of them are very clear, like a fantasy where Arthur imagines himself on “The Murray Franklin Show.” But then there’s the more vague scenes, like when Arthur is stomping on a pile of trash, imagining it’s his boss. Did he kill his boss? Is it just a garbage bag? Whatever it is, it makes me want to go back to the theater and see it again. 

This isn’t the “superhero movie of the year,” it’s more like the Inception of 2019. Everyone will be going back to see this again, to analyze it, to enjoy Phoenix’s performance, and to revel in a movie that people are going to be talking about for years.