The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Joaquin Phoenix gives chilling performance in controversial “Joker”

3 min read



Staff Writer

“Joker” is the perfect movie for this Halloween, with Joaquin Phoenix’s chilling performance of a man deteriorating into murderous madness, accompanied by breathtaking cinematography and a perfectly chaotic soundtrack.

Despite controversy over the movie’s release, “Joker” overtook the box office with an estimated opening of $93.5 million, the largest opening of October so far. The film had a budget of $64 million, making it cheaper to produce than many other movies by DC Comics.

I went into it with reservations, especially with the big debate about whether “Suicide Squad” was romanticizing the relationship Joker has with Harley Quinn. The idea of an origin story for Joker, or Arthur Fleck as he is for most of the film, was risky. A lot of fans feared that it would glorify Joker and his actions. It is true that the viewer tends to sympathize with him, but I feel that the movie successfully painted him in a foul light instead of making him the victim.

With its scene set in the 1980s, “Joker” takes us back to before Gotham was the city that Batman protects. Our main character, Arthur Fleck, lives in the slums of this Gotham with his sick and elderly mother. They are presented as a loving family who suffers from the cruel effects of poverty.

Joaquin Phoenix absolutely lost himself in this film. He became Arthur Fleck, who became Joker. He plays his role with terrifying believability- that of a sick, delusional and insane man playing the role of a normal and functioning member of society.

The viewer is sucked into his delusions. It’s impossible to know what is real and what is in his sick mind; you’ll have to watch and see what you believe. The movie left me scared, scared to think that people I know could have fallen down that path of insanity, but narrowly avoided it. It really makes you think.

Joker is an amazing villain. But was mental illness portrayed accurately? Is it offensive? It is mentioned that Arthur Fleck has spent time in a mental hospital and is on seven medications. When those are cut off, he starts going off the deep end.

He goes off his medicine and goes crazy- what does this make viewers think? The shock value is there. The viewer deep down is aware of what’s going to happen, but the movie still manages to shock you to the core. And it’s very bold to have so much gun violence in a movie after everything the United States has been through lately. But Joker did it well, if anyone could.

The cinematography is true to DC Comics’ aesthetic. There is meaningful repetition in the shots that is critical to the effect of the movie on the viewer. Cinematographer Lawrence Sher sets the scene of a dark, unhappy Gotham bursting into color when Joker shows up.

This film should be viewed with caution. It had me laughing at parts, nearly crying at others, and feeling very uncomfortable throughout. If you have bad experiences with guns or violence, please be cautious. Overall, although I am not a fan of clowns, I did enjoy the movie.