How do you write about a movie like Joker? It’s the origin story of an iconic comic book character but is nothing like the recent deluge of comic book films that saturate our viewing options. It doesn’t have a plethora of converging storylines or redundant characters. It’s just a bold and brutal look at mental health and political attitudes towards it.
It’s also a slow burn of a story that eventually builds to a crescendo of joy, but the giddiness that gurgles up from deep inside you isn’t the kind of joy that you will openly admit to. No, Joker is a dark dark tale of a mentally unstable person beginning to find his dark purpose in life.
And if I’m honest, Joker feels like the opening act rather than the entire story. It’s one of those films that slowly draws you in without realising that you’re becoming hopelessly invested in the character, and in the end you can’t quite explain why you enjoyed the film so much. It leaves you wanting more. A lot more. But it doesn’t feel like a cliffhanger that demands a sequel. It also doesn’t leave you feeling like you got short-changed. It’s a complete story that hints at more.
And let’s face facts, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, as I said, it’s the slowest of slow burns, this is not your typical action-focused comic book film. And it’s dark. Very dark. But out of that darkness, Joaquin Phoenix absolutely shines as a tormented Arthur Fleck, bringing to life the reality of the man who would become Joker.
But if you’re looking for something different, something more gritty and real in your comic book celluloid fare, then Todd Phillips’ Joker is the masterpiece you didn’t realise you needed to see.
Rating: R16 Restricted to audiences 16 years and over. NOTE: Violence, cruelty & offensive language.