CLOWNING AROUND: Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck in Joker.


  • Thriller; Cert R16, contains violence, cruelty and offensive language; 2hrs 1min
  • Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Josh Pais, Bill Camp, Glen Fleshler, Brett Cullen, Douglas Hodge, Marc Maron and Shea Whigham
  • Director: Todd Phillips

EVEN if there wasn’t a controversial aspect to Joaquim Phoenix’s latest film, Joker is bound to split audiences with its radical, yet flawed, message.

Phoenix was obviously enjoying the experience but unless one likes watching an artist at the height of his career emote, this film might not be for everybody.

An intentional tip-of-the-hat to Taxi Driver and King of Comedy director, Martin Scorsese, the film mirrors the brutal nihilism that defined many films of the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Accused of being a recipe for inspiring unstable individuals to acts of violence, even before the film’s opening, threats of violence like that which met the release of The Dark Knight were rife.

Arthur Fleck (even his name echoes the character’s sense of insignificance) suffers from a neurological disorder that has him laugh hysterically when confronted with uncomfortable truths.

Though humourless to the point of being creepy, Speck is convinced he is a great comedian and dreams of being a guest on the city’s primetime talk show.

Fleck is unable to hold on to his job as a party clown and, except for one co-worker who inadvertently launches his arc to villainy, is ridiculed for his strange behavior. And that is where things get strange.

The theme explored is intended as a touchstone between the zeitgeist of the ’80s and that of today – the class struggle.

The film is full of references of the income gap and the entitlement of the rich versus the disenfranchisement of the poor in a postmodernist society.

As his life becomes a spiraling descent into the heart of darkness, Fleck is an unreliable narrator.

What we see on screen is not always what is happening.

We are brought into his fantasy world and, like him, we are unsure as to what’s real and what isn’t.

Is his mother insane? Is he imagining everything?