Review: ‘Joker’ (2019) worth every ticket

Christopher Kelly, news staff

“Joker” (2019), directed by Todd Phillips, tells the sad tale of Arthur Fleck and his descent into madness as he eventually personifies the Joker. Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur is one of the most captivating performances of the year. This film combines beautiful cinematography with tragic storytelling in order to convey a terrifying origin story for DC’s darkest villain. 

“Joker” features Arthur Fleck, a man so down on his luck the audience feels pity whenever he appears on screen. Phoenix should be praised right from the get-go for essentially portraying two different characters, with his transformation into the villain of Joker from Arthur that takes place over the course of the film. His performance throughout the film was nothing short of astounding. Although watching the gradual decline of the main protagonist did feel out of place for a comic book movie, I could never bring myself to look away.  

“Joker” felt like the origin story that comic fans (especially DC fans) have been waiting for since “The Dark Knight” (2008) first came to theaters. The grim atmosphere and serious tone of the film is kept throughout as it focuses on Arthur’s downfall into madness and eventually infamy as the “Clown Prince of Crime.” Particularly, I believe the violence depicted in this film is shot in such a shocking way that it leaves an intense impact on the audience. These scenes feel real, gruesome and truly terrifying. These scenes are also complemented by a haunting score by Hildur Guðnadóttir, who composed the music for this film in such a masterful way that it feels perfectly integrated. Just like the depiction of Arthur throughout the film, the score changes with his attitude toward life and his own mental state.

The minor characters of the film also deserve recognition for the little screen time they had. Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin, Zazie Beetz as Sophie Dumond and Frances Conroy as Penny Fleck carry the movie off of Phoenix’s performance. There is not a scene in the film where Phoenix isn’t present, and he and his co-stars consistently play well off of each other. They perfectly convey a feeling of discomfort whenever they interact with the Joker and the unpredictability of his character. The portrayal of Gotham City as a cesspool of crime and pain is also to be commended for placing the audience directly in the environment that is tormenting the Joker.

Watching Phoenix perform in this film felt like the first time I watched Heath Ledger say, “Why so serious?” in “The Dark Knight.” The uncertainty and unpredictability of the character was expertly transferred over to this film, evoking nostalgia of Ledger’s legendary performance. I truly had no idea what the Joker was going to do during the course of the finale, and it made for some of the most captivating filmmaking I have seen in years. 

Watching Phoenix play the Joker in this setting of Gotham during the course of the film, as he fell further into despair and eventually collapsed into madness, felt like watching a building burn to the ground knowing that no one called the fire department. I recommend this film to hardcore comic fans and anyone with even a passing interest in genre films. This film is worth multiple viewings just to formulate personal theories and opinions, and I recommend that everyone give “Joker” (2019) a piece of their time.