Crime Drama

The Clown Prince Rises: A TIFF Review of ‘Joker’

September 12, 2019Ben MK

From Jack Nicholson to Jared Leto and, of course, Heath Ledger, a number of actors have played Batman's archenemy, the Joker. Few, however, have played the role like Joaquin Phoenix, whose portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime is the darkest and most disturbing one yet.

All Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) ever wanted was to make people laugh, but it always seemed like people only wanted to laugh at him and his suffering. Abused by his stepfather and raised by a mentally ill adoptive mother, Arthur's childhood was anything but ideal. Now that he's an adult, though, things aren't much better. Barely making ends meet as a clown-for-hire, he's been beat up, spit on, and just plain disrespected. And while billionaire Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) talks of running for mayor and improving the lives of the people of Gotham, deep down Arthur knows that what the city really needs is reformation through fire and chaos.

What makes director Todd Phillips' origin story for the Joker so unique, however, isn't the fact that it's set in the gritty '70s, nor the fact that there isn't a caped crusader in sight. No, what makes Joker different is how relatable the character is. Because ultimately, we are all Arthur Fleck, and Arthur Fleck is us.

Joker makes its North American premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 2 min.

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