Wesley Baucom, Staff Writer
In this October season when dressing up as ghouls or ghosts is seen as commonplace, who could forget about Clowns? The ambitious film “Joker” premiered in theaters on Oct. 4, and the promos promised something much different than your standard action-packed superhero flick. The Executive Producer for the movie, Michael Uslan, has defended his somewhat controversial film by saying it “holds up a mirror to our society.” The movie itself isn’t exactly scary, but the central emotions of fear, isolation and anger, all bleed out on the big screen following Joker’s descent into mind breaking madness.
Let’s make something clear, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is what carries the whole film. There are many good elements overall that make the film enjoyable to watch, but it’s his performance that really makes it shine. For a movie delving into gritty and heavily psychological topics, Phoenix’s subtly emotive nature was a perfect match. It’s not an easy task to play the Joker, especially with the many accolades given to Joaquin’s predecessor Heath Ledger.
What Pheonix does that’s different than the other portrayals of the character, is that he’s not as animated or rambunctious. Rather he’s more subdued, even more depressed than usual, and represents the issue of mental illness in a hyper-realistic fashion. Phoenix plays the role of a crying clown—a victim of a world that refused what little joy he had and tries to project. The weird loner type is something that Phoenix is accustomed to, and in this movie his acting has seldom been better.
Other than performance, the production of the movie was quite excellent as well. Scenes were filled with crisp light, interesting shots and amazing sound production. In fact, I would say the audio side is one of the strongest points of the production. There’s more than just music, but the sounds given during crucial scenes really tied it in the overall feeling that they were trying to evoke, especially the loud, piercing effects when dealing with Joker’s insanity.
The only issue I found with the look and feel of the movie was that I felt that some scenes took too long. It’s understandably trying something different than other superhero movies, but still, some scenes that were taken in slow-motion could’ve been sped up or cut all together. That’s not to say that it wasn’t interesting to watch, but there were some scenes that felt too mundane in a movie taking on the uneasiness of everyday life.
When you’re going about your day-to-day and you’re looking for a thrilling movie to get lost in, this one isn’t it. “Joker” is a bleak movie that leaves you feeling hollow. Which of course is what it aimed to do and succeeded in that aspect. I won’t go into spoilers, but there were certain points of the plot that weren’t exactly clear, some even leading to dead ends. That’s to be expected though, as the Joker himself refuses the answers he’s been given because he’s been lied to his whole life. It makes sense that the audience shouldn’t receive the answers either, since we’re seeing it through the Joker’s eyes.
The only other problem I have with the movie is that it suffers from its own edginess. It seems to take itself a little too seriously, not realizing its potential for showing the issue on both sides, and instead placing the entirety of the blame at the society’s feet. In this way, the movie doesn’t seem self-aware or sure of itself. It lashes out at the first thing it sees simply because it’s the largest thing in its vision. Perhaps this was intentional, making itself somewhat hypocritical because the Joker is a living hypocrite—a clown who causes and receives suffering.
Other than this, the movie was still enjoyable to watch despite its grim themes, and it’s a nice break from the usually formulaic superhero genre. “Joker” may not be the ideal Halloween movie, but it pulls its own weight in dealing with the fear of living in the real world. For me, it’s 7 clown masks out of 10.