Crime Drama

Review: In ‘Joker,’ Joaquin Phoenix Delivers an Oscar-Caliber Performance Worthy of a Clown Prince

October 3, 2019Britany Murphy

It is likely that, by now, many of us are familiar with the Joker. As one of Batman's greatest villains, the character has boasted great performances both on the small screen (Cesar Romero, Mark Hamill, Cameron Monaghan) and big screen (Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger). Now, we have a new actor entering the arena with his take on Gotham's most dastardly villain — Joaquin Phoenix.

When the audience first meets aspiring stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), he's making ends meet by taking on odd jobs dressed as a clown. Whether it be to brighten up the day of a room full of sick children or just holding up a sign announcing a store-closing sale, Arthur does what he can to earn a living and take care of his ailing mother, Penny (Frances Conroy). Penny and Arthur even spend most nights watching his favorite show, a late-night comedy program hosted by Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). But after a string of events cause him to lose his job, Arthur begins to spiral down a dark path.

Forced to put his dreams on the back-burner and with no one to turn to, Arthur begins to notice the cracks and the corruption in the world around him. Not even billionaire Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen), Gotham's newest mayoral candidate, can be trusted. Wanting to take things into his own hands and no longer be seen as less-than, Arthur's new direction in life is a threat not only to himself, but to the people around him and Gotham City as we know it.

Phoenix's performance as a man on the way to becoming a nefarious villain is something that is a sight to behold, and it's no wonder why there is Oscar buzz surrounding his turn as the Joker. It is interesting to see both the beginning of Arthur's journey and his eventual surrender to the darkness and depravity of the Joker, with the final act of the film being particularly exceptional as it pertains to Phoenix's acting prowess. And while, at times, it is unnerving to see Fleck unraveling in an extremely disturbing fashion, audiences will be hard-pressed to take their eyes off the screen.

With Todd Phillips in the director's chair, the result offers moviegoers a unique and more fleshed-out take on the origin story of the Dark Knight's maniacal and deranged arch-nemesis — one that exists outside the realm of the DC Extended Universe. Although this is definitely not a movie for everyone — especially the faint-of-heart — Joker is certainly worth watching, if only for Phoenix's tour-de-force performance.

Joker releases October 4th, 2019 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 1 min.

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