A peek at a few sample pages from the Marjoe Gortner book WILDCAT! - almost there!
Saturday, October 5, 2019
Having thought about JOKER for the past couple of days after seeing it, I think Joaquin Phoenix's incredibly immersive, almost painful performance as Arthur Fleck/Joker is fully desreving of the high praise it has been receiving, even from many of the people who hated the rest of the movie. Phoenix's performance is certainly the lyncpin of Todd Phillip's standalone comic book movie, but unlike a lot of people I had no problem with the story being an obvious amalgam of 1970s cinema classics like MEAN STREETS (1973), DEATH WISH (1974), ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST and, of course, TAXI DRIVER (1976). Not to mention THE KING OF COMEDY (1981). If JOKER leads some younger (or even older) viewers to go back and discover these films for the first time, all the better. I'm also not buying into the controversy that the film may inspire real-life violence or copycat behaviour. Ultimately, I don't believe that the contents of any art form - be it film, television, writing, painting, music - should be dictated by the potential response of a few lone sociopaths (who if they are going to act upon their violent urges are going to be triggered by one thing if not another).
This isn't the Joker that I necessarily want to see square off with Batman in any future films, but as a portrait of one man's descent into complete madness, I found it as gripping as it is depressing, and yes I felt sympathetic at times to Arthur Fleck's plight, and have no guilt over feeling so. Mental illness is something that can attack and destroy any of us at any time, and JOKER effectively displays how those stuck at the bottom rungs of society find it particularly difficult to get the proper help they need. The film's screenplay (by Phillips and Scott Silver) also has some interesting parallels to Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012), in the way in which it depicts the gap and the struggle between the entitled rich and the deprived poor. I haven't seen a whole lot of new movies this year, but JOKER so far is right up there with ONCE UPON A TIME IN...HOLLYWOOD as the best of them.