"Reel Reviews: ‘Joker’ a depressive downward spiral into clown-fueled insanity’" by: Jessica Shepard

   After Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger’s portrayal of DC Comic’s “Joker” character, I’m always on the lookout for another.
   After all, Mark Hamill voices the animated Joker from several previous Batman series and movies.
   Sadly, for me, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is not it.
   Does Phoenix play the clown-faced madman to a “T” – yes.
   But, the gritty realism that DC was going for soaked through the storyline and made it hard to watch.
   Not because of the violence, delusions or blindingly obvious parallels to our current society; but because it never seems to stop.
   And I get that, that was the point, but, if I wanted to be depressed for just over two hours of my life, I’d certainly not pay full price for it.
   Joker is a psychological thriller film directed by Todd Phillips, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver.
   The film, based on DC Comics characters, stars Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker.
   Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Douglas Hodge, Dante Pereira-Olson, and Marc Maron appear in supporting roles.
   Joker was produced by DC Films, Village Roadshow Pictures, Bron Creative, and Joint Effort, and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.
   In 1981, party clown Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) lives with his mother, Penny (Conroy), in Gotham City.
   Gotham is rife with crime and unemployment, leaving segments of the population disenfranchised and impoverished.
   Arthur suffers from a neurological disorder that causes him to laugh at inappropriate times and depends on a social services worker for medication.
   After a bunch of teenagers attacks Arthur in an alley, his co-worker Randall (Fleshler) loans him a gun.
   Arthur invites his neighbor, single mother Sophie (Beetz), to his stand-up comedy show, and they begin dating.
   While entertaining at a children’s hospital, Arthur’s gun falls out of his pocket which leads to Arthur being fired and Randall lying that Arthur bought the gun himself.
   On the subway, still in his clown makeup, Arthur is beaten by three drunken Wayne Enterprises businessmen; he shoots two in self-defense and executes the third.
   The murders are condemned by billionaire mayoral candidate Thomas Wayne (Cullen), who labels those envious of more successful people as “clowns.”
   Demonstrations against Gotham’s rich begin, with protesters donning clown masks in Arthur’s image.
   Funding cuts shutter the social service program, leaving Arthur without medication or support.
   On stage at a comedy club, Arthur’s comedy show goes poorly; he laughs uncontrollably and has difficulty delivering his jokes.
   Talk show host Murray Franklin (De Niro) mocks Arthur by showing clips from the routine on his show.
   Arthur intercepts a letter written by Penny to Thomas, alleging that he is Thomas’s illegitimate son, and berates his mother for hiding the truth.
   At Wayne Manor, Arthur talks to Thomas’ young son, Bruce (Olson), but flees after a scuffle with butler Alfred Pennyworth (Hodge).
    Following a visit from two Gotham City Police Department detectives investigating Arthur’s involvement in the train murders, Penny suffers a stroke and is hospitalized.
   And still, the movie spirals down into a depressing blow-by-blow of Fleck’s descent into madness and crafting his “Joker” persona into his main one.
   Even then, its ranked No. 1 in box offices worldwide with over $248 million in revenue while being rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language, and brief sexual images.

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