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Did the Joker amuse (and entertain)?

Sanjay Sudarsan, Undergraduate Class of 2022

The Joker, directed by Todd Philips, was all the hype of 2019. In an attempt to boost the popularity, the movie was released two days ahead of its original release date. But did the movie really live up to the hype?

Before we delve further into the movie review, let me warn you, this movie is definitely not for the light-hearted. With multiple graphic scenes of violence, it might offset some serious health conditions or might trigger unnecessary memories. But the pace of the movie was very slow with a total run time of two hours. Much of the action in the movie came about in the last thirty minutes. You wouldn’t be missing much if you walk in an hour late or so.

Considering that the movie was based on the famous DC Comics, wherein Joker is the arch-nemesis of masked superhero-Batman, Philips did not have much creative license to toy around with, despite that the director was noteworthy. He deliberately avoided defining Fleck as psychotic or schizophrenic or suffering from any other clearly established disorder and this allowed for an open debate around whether the entire movie was actually playing in his mind.

In a movie like this, with constant psychotic episodes in the protagonist’s life, the camera and screenplay captured the silences brilliantly. Joaquin Phoenix- the actor who essays the protagonist is so into character that it keeps you on the edge of your seat, especially towards the climactic end. His accurate portrayal of the cult figure could perhaps be attributed to Phoenix’s early childhood, where he and his family were part of an actual cult called ‘The Children of God’.

The film’s direction and screenplay are intricately put together to create a masterpiece of a film. Purely based on the collection at the Box Office, the movie crossed the 50 crore mark on its thirteenth day after release, which is a decent sum of money at a pretty quick pace.

Despite the popular approval that the film garnered, there have also been a fair share of criticisms levied.“The movie has a profound misunderstanding of working people, mental illnesses and politics,” says Gabrielle Bruney, a journalist for the online magazine Esquire. These are some of the themes that the movie focuses on and, according to some, irresponsibly misrepresents them. Mental illness is shown as some sort of an evil characteristic feature that defines why the Joker is who he is. It is fair to say that such a portrayal of does more to fetishise having a mental illness than an attempt to understand the associated complexities.

Overall, The Joker did seem to have fallen a little bit short of the hype around it, probably because of the high expectations that preceded its release. It is a movie that you should watch just so you can be a part of the many lunch conversations that you would end up having with your friends. You will love the movie if you enter the theatre with no expectations and would have a great time if you appreciate the art and nuances of direction and screenplay rather than making the mistake of taking the plotline at its face value.

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