“Joker”: An expertly crafted nightmare

Story by Will Hanson, Arts and Entertainment Editor

“Joker” is co-written and directed by Todd Phillips. The film follows a man named Arthur, and his descent into crime as he becomes The Joker. The movie stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz and Frances Conroy.

Joaquin Phoenix shines in the title role of The Joker. He gives a powerful performance as a man with severe mental illness who feels rejected by the system. Although his performance can be considered problematic due to the apparent demonizing of his mental illness. Phoenix gives it his absolute all and it all turns out in his favor, allowing the viewer to be too distracted by the performance to focus on the semi-apparent problems.

Although the film almost solely focuses on the performance and character of Arthur (The Joker), several of the other side characters give fantastic performances with their limited screen time.

Zazie Beetz of “Deadpool 2” plays Sophie, a woman who lives down the hallway from Arthur and his mother. Beetz shines in her extremely limited role, making me wish that I had gotten to see much more of her and her connection to Arthur.

Frances Conroy of “American Horror Story” shines in the role as Penny, Arthur’s mother. Like Beetz, Conroy gets limited screen time but gives the performance her absolute all.

The film is expertly crafted in regard to acting, cinematography, directing, and a fantastic soundtrack. A soundtrack is vital to a viewer gaining a connection to the film and “Joker” does this perfectly. Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir takes the emotions felt in the film and turns it into a perfect tune to coincide with each scene after another.

Every shot of the film feels as if it was methodically positioned in a specific way. Philips directs it in such a way, that every moment feels powerful and meaningful, with little of the film feeling unneeded. I felt that the film flowed almost flawlessly from beginning to end, with fantastic editing and pacing.

“Joker” may do many things right, but it is not as deep of a film as it tries to be. The film struggles to focus on what tone it wants to stick with. The overall story is all rooted in political plot devices that drive it forward.

With all of the controversy around it promoting violence and misrepresenting people with mental illnesses as violent individuals, I was interested to see what I thought of the overall message. I appreciate the film as a separate entity from what the critics were saying, but I understand why it was brought up.

I do not believe that the film will invoke violence anymore than the next violent movie. The media saw its connection the the Aurora “The Dark Knight Rises” massacre, and ran with it, trying to force a big story out of a movie that is not as violent as it appears. It is violent, but I have seen many other films, specifically horror films, that were a hundred times more violent than “Joker.”

The political plot devices were done in such a strong manner, that the movie benefited overall. Although the overt political-ness took the film and a strong direction, it was a different direction than I would have particularly wanted for a movie about The Joker.

I understand the appeal of the character of the Joker and wanting to know what makes him tick and why he does such heinous things. I just do not understand why this particular film was made, when this version of the character as nothing to do with the DC Extended Universe, which already has its own version.

Although I believe the film is close to excellent, I struggle to find a purpose or point in the production of the film. It is two hours of disturbing, graphic violence with little to no pay off in the end. I left the theater wondering if sitting through such an anxiety-inducing, bleak movie, was worth the toll it would take on my mind.

I give “Joker” an 8/10 for being one of the most well-crafted films I have seen in a long time. The raw performances of everyone involved and fantastic directing are enough to distract the viewer from any issues in regard to mental illness, political themes and violence. The film may be fantastic, but I left the theatre a lot more unhappy and solemn than I was when I arrived.

“Joker” is in theatres now everywhere.