Joker: Beautifully Disturbing


Ashton Livingston, Editor in Chief, Writer

I want to start off by saying the controversy surrounding this movie is a mixed bagged and slightly stupid to me. Saying how “it will cause violence in people who relate to the main character” is a cheap excuse to blame media. This film is a work of art in the area of character studies. Everything about this movie from its cinematography to its acting is Oscar worthy. I cannot think of anything I dislike in this movie other than its use of very obvious and heavy inspiration from Taxi Driver

Joker tells the story of Arthur Fleck in Gotham City during the 1970’s. The city is in ruins from a crumbling economy and citizens in unrest. The film deals with mental health along with how an environment or people can influence this illness. These ideas create a great atmosphere for a film about a bleak world and an even bleaker character. The plot is helped by the bleak tone of things, but the story itself is an outstanding character study and its helped even more by the Oscar worthy performance given by Joaquin Phoenix. 

I have never seen a movie in which Joaquin Phoenix was bad or just okay. This movie is one of the BEST Joaquin Phoenix roles I have ever seen. His ability to express emotions during a scene in which he’s having a laughing fit is impressive as is, but there’s one scene in this film in which our lead is receiving bad news. During this he smiles but there’s a blackness building up in his eyes. that blew me away. His ability to have a blackness behind his eyes while smiling is horrifying. His dedication to the role shows not only in his acting but what he has done to his body creating a physically unnerving presence. His weight loss helps tell us the mental state of this character in a great way, along with the very well performed mental descendance. Todd Phillips’ direction paired with a phenomenal performance by Joaquin Phoenix along with beautiful cinematography is both gorgeous and terrifying experience. 

All the performances here are top notch and it is in part due to Todd Phillips knowing exactly what he wants to do. Each scene holds a special spot in the film, the only scene I can even think is worth possibly cutting out is a scene when Arthur Fleck is nearing the end of his mental breakdown and he climbs into his fridge. I think this scene is kind of unnecessarily telling us “oh he’s crazy!” when the performance has already been telling us “this character is not okay!” and that’s honestly my only problem with the movie. 


This section is full of spoilers, and trust me, there are things to be spoiled. Watching this film was extremely tense. There’s a scene in which Arthur is on a subway with three drunk wall street types and is having a laughing fit (these fits are brought on by a mental condition) and the three men brutally beat him and Arthur pulls a gun and shoots them. The violence in this film is shown in an extremely realistic fashion. Violence in films has been used mostly for entertainment like in the John Wick franchise whereas here, it is used as a way to show how real this is, how awful our leads psyche is. 


The plot is full of really interesting twists and turns that show us how terrible the mindset of our lead is. Some of these things also hint to the idea that Arthur is an unreliable narrator. One big one is this films love interest, Sophie (played by Zazie Beetz). For a good portion of this film you are set up to believe that Arthur and Sophie are having a relationship in which Sophie is there to support him but plot twist, Arthur has set up a relationship with this woman in his head, a woman he met once. This twist shows us an unreliable narrator along with an extremely mentally unwell man. 

Another twist shows us our leads mother is extremely delusional and has fed Arthur lies and kept secrets from him. One lie is that he is the son of Thomas Wayne. This lie leads to confrontations with Thomas Wayne and Arthur’s mental state going down at a 90 degree incline.Arthur comes to find that he is adopted and that his mother even let one of her boyfriends abuse Arthur on the daily. All of this culminating to Arthur completely unhinging himself from all morality and sets us up for the most intense third act of any movie.


The third act is when Arthur has fully set into the Joker persona and is invited onto his favorite late night talk show. Here Joaquin Phoenix shows us a level of confidence we had not yet seen in Arthur. Phoenix gives us a bone chilling performance in this scene. This great acting from Phoenix and Robert DeNiro paired with some fantastic writing allows for heart stopping, hang onto the edge of your seat suspense. This third act is nothing but fantastic and gives us some unforgettable dialogue along with even more beautiful imagery. 

Joker is nothing short of fantastic. Its influences are definitely on display and sometimes a little too obvious but other than that and one slightly unnecessary scene the film shines in the darkest ways possible. Todd Phillip excellent direction paired with tense writing, phenomenal performances, beautiful imagery and a bone chilling score create an unforgettable movie going experience. This film transcends the comic book genre and gives us a thought provoking film as opposed to some fun superhero romps. Joker asks questions audiences might have trouble answering, like “what effect do we have on mental health?” or “what can gun violence lead to?” all of these given to you in a true masterpiece. Joker gets an A- for its stellar performances, great direction, amazing writing and great score. Joker is rated R for violence, language, disturbing imagery, and brief nudity.