Movie Review: Joker

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Two things drew me to the new movie release, Joker. I love origin stories that reveal how a well known character evolved. Joker is such a movie, featuring one of the most iconic villains in the DC Universe. And, I appreciate what actor Joaquin Phoenix brings to any role he plays. I’ve heard raves for his performance in Joker and I looked forward to seeing it.

My sister Linda and I caught a Sunday afternoon matinee. After a very full weekend, a couple of hours at the theater was a welcome reprieve.

Movie Review: Joker contains mild spoilers. If you don’t want to know anything about this film, stop reading now!

Movie Review Joker Title Meme

Movie Review: Joker – Cast

This thriller/crime drama stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy and Brett Cullen. Todd Phillips co-wrote and directed Joker. The film carries an R rating for violence, intense scenes and language, and has a run time of 2 hours and 2 minutes.

Put on a Happy Face

Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) lives simply with his mother (Conroy) in a run down apartment building in Gotham City. He barely makes a living as a clown, performing in one time gigs at hospitals and retail shops. Arthur aspires to do stand up comedy and scribbles jokes and comedic ideas in a well worn notebook that he carries with him. He truly believes his purpose in life is to make people laugh and to bring joy to the world.

However, life is challenging for Arthur. He suffers from a condition called pathological laughter that causes him to cackle when he is nervous or uncomfortable. His inappropriate laughter invites ridicule from bullies and disapproval from those who don’t understand him. Unfortunately for Arthur, people laugh at him, not with him, and taunts follow.

Movie Review Joker Clown
It’s tough being a clown in Gotham City.
Arthur the Stand Up Comedian
It’s even tougher to do stand up comedy!

Send in the Clowns

To combat his loneliness and his difficulties interacting with people, Arthur creates alternate realities in his imagination. His idol, late night talk show host and comedian Murray Franklin (De Niro) embraces Arthur as a son and encourages him…in Arthur’s imagination. And likewise, neighbor Sophie (Beetz), who lives down the hall and smiled at him once, becomes his pretend girlfriend.

He writes in his notebook:

“The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”

When they aren’t laughing at his peculiarities, people don’t notice him at all. Arthur feels invisible and not real.

The troubled man’s lifepath shifts when he decides enough is enough, on the city subway. Three wealthy young men torment Arthur when he laughs uncontrollably, and they begin to beat him. Dressed in his clown costume and armed with a gun, he fights back for the first time, shooting the men to stop the attack. That act of violence divides Arthur, changes him, from a man with hopes and dreams to a man with a much darker purpose.

In Gotham City division grows as well. The killer clown on the subway becomes a hero to some. Clowns show up all over the city, wreaking havoc. The lower class rises against the upper class, exemplified by billionaire Thomas Wayne (Cullen) who is running for mayor of the city. When Arthur discovers a connection between him and Wayne it only further loosens the comedian’s fragile grip on what’s real.

Movie Review Joker Arthur
Arthur Fleck
Robert De Niro is Murray Franklin
Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin.

The Transformation from Clown to Joker

Feeling betrayed by the people closest to him, in reality or in his imagination, Arthur begins a transformation. The killing on the subway train emboldens him. He uses violence as a way to get back at those who have hurt him.

In a strange way, Arthur’s awkwardness around people lessens as he loses the last shreds of reason and decency. That peculiar freedom lends grace to his thin body and adds a confidence he’s never had before.

The Joker is fully born on a night that should have marked the realization of a dream. The man he once idolized unintentionally christens him with a new name and a new identity, and launches Arthur into a new career. He is a struggling comedian no more. He is Joker, the Clown Prince of Gotham.

Movie Review Joker is born
Joker is born. His dance down the steps is one of the most riveting scenes in the film.

My Thoughts on Joker

This is a phenomenal origin film. Todd Phillips wanted a fresh story about Batman’s arch nemesis and he certainly created one. Phillips and co-writer Scott Silver used elements of Joker lore to produce an original story that could stand on its own. I love how familiar aspects of this villain, such as his laughter, provide launching points for new discoveries in the film.

Joaquin Phoenix is mesmerizing. He lost 52 pounds for this role. According to him, it gave his body surprising fluidity, allowing him to move in ways that opened creative possibilities during the story development. Phoenix portrays Arthur in such a way that one feels compassion for him. He is painful to watch, at times, and yet he is captivating in his flawed humanity. I rooted for him…right up until his soul fractured and he embraced violence as a way of life. Then I hurt for him.

And that’s the beauty of this film. It’s more than the transformation of a broken man into a villain. Arthur’s pain shaped him in ways that he barely perceived. His realization that he had never been happy a moment in his life sharply alienated him from his desire to make people laugh and to bring them joy.

Arthur’s life felt devoid of joy. What he sought for others was in reality what his own soul longed for. And yet…society and those he thought cared for him only pushed him farther along the path to villainy. Of course, he could have chosen differently. However the point of the movie is that he was a victim and he allowed that role to define him. There is so much truth in Joker’s story and it broke my heart, in unexpected ways.

After Movie Review: Joker Check Out the Film

If you enjoy Joaquin Phoenix, origin stories or the DC/Batman Universe…check out this complex film. It’s beautiful, in a gritty, eye opening sort of way. And it’s devastating, in a heart wrenching, lip chewing sort of way. Joker offers a peek into the life of a man who twisted himself into a new creation and lost himself along the way. Joker might make you weep, for him and for all those who are lost.

Joaquin Phoenix as Joker.
Movie Review: Joker

Trailer for Joker

Check out these recent movie reviews:

Downton Abbey

Yesterday

Rocketman

 

And find your Joker items here, including the haunting movie soundtrack:


 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

Movie Review: Yesterday

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

My attraction toward films with musical overtones continues. The movie Yesterday, which released last weekend, is not a music biopic. Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, Yesterday features music from a particular genre and time period, without focusing on the stories behind the artists.

After seeing several previews, I was intrigued by the film’s premise. What if everyone in the world forgot who the Beatles were, except for one man? I deliberately avoided reading anything about the storyline. Instead, I got myself to the theater as soon as I could, to see how this fantastical story turned out.

Movie Review Yesterday Title Meme

Yesterday Cast

This film dips into multiple genres including comedy, musical, romance and fantasy. It stars Himesh Patel, Lily James, Joel Fry, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Ed Sheeran, Meera Syal and Kate McKinnon. Yesterday, directed by Danny Boyle, carries a PG-13 rating for mild suggestive content and language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 56 minutes.

Movie Review Yesterday Jack Performing

What If No One Knew Who the Beatles Were?

Jack Malik (Patel) is following his passion. Since junior high school, when he won a talent contest, Jack has pursued his dream of making it in the music industry. His childhood friend, Ellie (James), manages his would be career. She sets up gigs and encourages Jack to keep going, even when he feels like giving up.

However, to Jack it seems that his dreams are nothing but wisps of smoke that are rapidly fading away.

The night that he calls it quits, after a poor turnout for a performance, something magical happens. On the way home, Jack is hit by a bus during a brief but bizarre power outage that affects the entire planet.

He quickly realizes, after leaving the hospital, that no one knows who the Beatles are. Strumming his new guitar, and singing a few lines of Yesterday, Jack is astonished when his friends enthuse over the new piece he’s written. When he tries to give credit for the song to its rightful owners, his friends look confused.

Google searches come up empty when he looks for info about John, Paul, George and Ringo. Somehow the band and its legendary collection of songs have not just disappeared, they’ve never existed.

Movie Review Yesterday Ed Sheeran

Capitalizing on a Golden Opportunity

The Beatles may not exist, however the lyrics and melodies to the songs remain in Jack’s head. He begins to perform songs that are familiar only to him. The once struggling musician suddenly finds himself receiving the appreciation and attention he long sought.

From his own parents (Syal and Bhaskar) to singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran (Sheeran) to his pushy new manager from the US, Debra Hammer (McKinnon), Jack becomes a big deal. As he frantically jots down all the Beatles’ lyrics that he can recall, recording contracts are offered and performances booked.

Jack pulls together enough Beatles songs for his first album. He upgrades his appearance, at Debra’s insistence. His parents express surprise and pride over his new found popularity. And after a heart wrenching talk with Ellie, Jack leaves her and heads out with his friend Rocky (Fry) on a whirlwind world tour to promote the upcoming musical release.

It’s everything Jack dreamed about and hoped for in his career….or is it?

Movie Review Yesterday

My Thoughts on Yesterday

I loved this sweet and funny film. This is a movie to sit back and simply enjoy. There aren’t any stories about how the Beatles’ songs came to be or glimpses into the Fab Four’s personal lives. No, this is a story that explores a world where the Beatles never formed as a band and where no one knows the songs “Let it Be” or “Yesterday”.  No one, that is, except Jack.

Himesh Patel portrays Jack beautifully. A newcomer to films, Himesh brings a fresh sound to familiar tunes in an earnest and somewhat understated way. He sings beautifully and really does play the guitar and piano during the movie.

I can feel Jack’s discouragement as gig after gig produces less than satisfactory results. Anyone who has ever worked hard to manifest dreams can identify with Jack’s angst and feelings of inadequacy as his way to fame seems blocked.

And, it is understandable how such an enormous opportunity to realize those dreams cannot be ignored.

The question during the movie shifts from Is it wrong to take credit for someone else’s work? to Should such an incredible collection of music disappear forever? Those are great questions to grapple with.

Movie Review Yesterday

What is the Cost of a Dream?

Ultimately, Jack must decide what his responsibilities are, to himself, to his friends, to the world…and to a group of musicians that no one is aware of.

With 17 songs from the Beatles and some surprising twists in the film, Yesterday is fun to watch…and listen to. Humor and tenderness are sprinkled liberally throughout the story and several great lines of script appeared to be directed at me.

I took to heart Ellie’s words to Jack, when he threatened to quit music and get a teaching job. She reminded him that any energy he devoted to teaching took away from the energy he had to create songs and music. I love that reminder that what we focus on matters, and energy flows where our attention goes.

Beatles fan, romantic comedy fan or fantasy fan…Yesterday delivers.

Yesterday Movie Poster

Pick up the amazing Yesterday movie soundtrack by clicking on the photo below:

 


 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.