‘Joker’ movie: stunning but shallow

November 15, 2019 — by Allen Luo and Benjamin Li

Scenes such as the violent clown mobs and the hysterical, maniacal protagonist have led to criticism of the recently released film “Joker.” Starring Joaquin Phoenix as failed comedian Arthur Fleck, who suffers from a serious mental health issue, the movie follows his descent into madness on the streets of Gotham City for an action-packed two hours. 

Fleck’s story starts with him living with his mother in their shabby apartment, working as a clown to support him and his mother. Fleck is a former patient at a psychiatric facility who suffers from a condition that causes him to break into uncontrollable fits of laughter at seemingly random times. He idolizes comedian and TV host Murray Franklin, but after being beaten up by a group of thugs one day, Fleck turns toward a path of violence instead of pursuing his dream of comedy.

With stunning cinematography, “Joker” deftly engages its audience in a heart-stopping thriller that is sure to have them on the edge of their seats with suspense. The movie’s premise offers an intriguing story and the action-filled areas of the film are well executed. “Joker” also references many other movies, most notably producer Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy.” 

However, the movie is lacking in several areas. First, Phoenix’s portrayal of Fleck is slightly over-the-top and unrealistic, unintentionally making a mockery of everyone who has ever been bullied or excluded.

 Other sections also are unbelievable at times, and some feel forced and dull. Specifically, Fleck’s murders of three businessmen in the subway is unlikely in a real-life scenario, and his actions that cause a massive wave of protests from citizens is also implausible. In addition, the audience is left to their own devices to figure out what is real in the movie and what Fleck’s hallucinations create, which causes confusion.

Critics seem to be split into the two extremes about the movie. On one side, critics from Rolling Stone praised the film as “simply stupendous,” while the Associated Press called it a “misjudged attempt to marry the madness of a disturbed individual to today’s violent and clownish times.”

When looking at the movie as a whole, it could be conceived as an interesting work that explores the dark nature of modern society. Regardless of its flaws, “Joker” is a must-watch for comic-crazy fans who love to explore the  backstory of every character. But if you are looking for an uplifting superhero movie, it would probably be better to wait for upcoming movies such as “Wonder Woman,” or “Black Widow.”

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