Not all of Joker works but Joaquin Phoenix is nothing short of miraculous in the part of Arthur Fleck who works as a clown for a low-cost company.
It is early 1980s in Gotham City when we meet Arthur. He is hired to appear at birthday parties, company promotions and visits to children’s wards in hospitals. Arthur’s home life consists of looking after his agoraphobic mother who barely moves.
Mocked and attacked first by teenage thugs and then yuppie young men on the subway, Arthur, who has been given a gun, suddenly takes his revenge on a society which treats him like dirt. He strikes back and kills the three men on the train. Dressed as a clown, he is only identified as ‘joker.’
We learn that Arthur was abused as a child, suffered from bullying and has mental health issues. He suffers from a kind of Tourette’s syndrome which has him laughing uncontrollably at odd moments.
Once he has begun, Arthur finds that he feels no remorse and continues to murder those who he feels mock him.
Arthur’s mother, played by a most convincing Frances Conroy, keeps on telling her son about her time working for the billionaire Thomas Wayne who is dad to Bruce Wayne (here around 7 years-old but later to turn into Batman!). She insists that Thomas Wayne will help them.
Arthur finds himself on TV being interviewed by Murray Franklin (a superb Robert de Niro), who he finds out only wants to mock his performance as a stand-up comedian.
The joker is hailed as some kind of hero, and lots of people dress up as clowns to riot in the streets of the run -down city. More killings take place by this uncontrolled mob.
While all the actors give strong performances, Phoenix is outstanding in the main part. Having shed more than a stone to become the emaciated clown, he uses his physicality to enormous effect, almost dancing in parts of the DC Universe movie.
Director Todd Phillips, who co-wrote the film with Scott Silver, has given us a Gotham city which looks drab and terribly neglected. The cinematography has a darkness throughout.