Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Nothing Funny About "Joker"
This makes only the second time since I inaugurated this blog that I've chosen to give some thoughts on a movie I saw that is currently in theaters.
I don't have a TV anymore. Unless I happen to be in a bar watching a sports game I don't see any commercials for coming attractions or for movies that are in their first run. My first indication that they had made this movie was when an email notice from EVO (where I have a rewards app to get points when I go to movies and/or eat a meal there) appeared in my in-box. It offered first chance at pre-sale tickets.
Because I happen to like superhero movies and have watched nearly every one that has been produced in the past 20 or 30 years in the theater, and because I knew The Joker character from reading DC comics well before then, I was intrigued by the concept of a movie focusing on him.
It's an origin story, and one that delves very much into the same stark portrayal that Frank Miller's Dark Knight comic series did with Batman. "The Joker" as portrayed in that comic book was as far from Caesar Romero's "Joker" in the 60's Batman TV show as, say, Jack Spade (I'm Gonna Git You Sucka) is from Paul Kersey (Death Wish).
But Joker takes it several steps farther. Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck is a mentally unstable man long before the tribulations of his life transform him into his ultimate alter-ego. At least Jack Nicholson's Jack Napier (Batman) had some slight hold on sanity before his transformation into the iconic villain. Fleck has no such semblances towards a normal mentality. He is already unhinged.
Joker, which is rated R, so that should send up flags to any of you parents considering sending the kids in to see this movie, has absolutely got insanity under wraps (warps?). I personally felt extremely dirty after watching this movie. And if you are familiar with some of the more outre output I have reviewed in the past three years, you must know it would take something extroadinary to make me feel uncomfortable.
It is a credit to Phoenix that he was able to pull this off. In 40 years of watching movies I have NEVER walked out on a movie mid-showing. I can count on the fingers of one hand the times that I considered it. But all those other times was because the movie was so damn boring. (The Postman was the most egregious offender in that category.) I read a Yahoo feed that quite a few people HAVE walked out mid-showing on this film, which says something.
Phoenix's Joker, in my opinion, makes Heath Ledger's Joker look like Barney the Purple Dinosaur. And he will probably get an Oscar nom for his portrayal. I think he did a damn decent job in the role. But I just didn't like the way the movie made me feel. It doesn't let up. The comic relief of the movie (his attempts at trying to start a career as a stand-up comedian, I think, is supposed to be "comic relief") does nothing to quell the inner turmoil that the movie creates in the viewer.
A word of advice. If you choose to watch this film, be sure you go in the daytime. Leaving the theater after dark may make you a little nervous about the trip to the car.
Drive safely, folks