Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy
They say behind every madman is a misunderstood genius! Directed by Todd Phillips, the over-due origin story of DC’s most beloved villain finally hit the big screens to reveal just that.
The psychological thriller/drama follows the life of a mentally-ill, failed comedian Arthur Fleck who struggles to find his place in the society. He makes his living as a clown, which only earns him further abandonment, attacks, humiliation until he finds himself an outcast. Gotham city is in an on-going war between the elite and the working class during the period of recession. With more and more people losing jobs, the city is on the brink of a breakdown.
At such a grim time, an act of self-defence suddenly turns Arthur into the face of a revolution, causing a chain of unpleasant events that unfold thereafter in the movie. The twist of happenings and his revelation about his past only steer him towards more insanity, finally leading him to discover freedom and safety in his madness. Arthur falls, only to rise stronger and more fearless than ever, as the hero for the society dwellers revolting against the rich and later Batman’s nemesis “Joker”.
While the character has always been played previously by the most talented artists – be it Cesar Romero’s prankster portrayal or Heath Ledger’s sadistic clown – Joaquin Phoenix sets a new mark. He delivers the damage the character carries and makes you feel his pain. His skinny almost-to-bones body, his eyes that show no life, and his psychotic laughter that sends chills down your spine leaves you feeling a twinge of sympathy and fear of the killer clown. Excellent cinematography and BGM play the perfect muse, adding to the almost palpable buzz of the movie.
The film has stirred controversies on sympathising with an evil mind, but really, the movie does not glorify this main character in any way. It merely sheds light on the tense environment the whole of Gotham is set in.
While the movie has raised a lot of expectations, it is, like a joke, very subjective. There are layers in the movie that are to be understood. Be it the ignorance of mental illness or a political take on the fragmented society, Gotham is the depiction of the real world.
The movie will have you hooked till the end only to leave you pondering later. On a side note, is this the start of a trend? Now can we expect more movies for super villains in the future?
Verdict: Catch this one for its atypical characterisation and of course, the masterful art of Joaquin Phoenix.