Film Review: Joker

JOKER (15)

Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 9:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 11:41 am

The Joker's wild and plagued with a neurological condition which compels him to burst into fits of maniacal giggling in director Todd Phillips's profoundly disturbing character study.

Co-written by Scott Silver, this relentlessly grim portrait of mental illness and societal neglect burrows deep beneath the translucent, bone-stretched skin of Batman's adversary, several years before the Caped Crusader dons a cowl.

While Christopher Nolan's brooding Dark Knight trilogy underpinned muscular thrills with sustained menace, earning Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar as a schizophrenic clown devoid of empathy, Phillips's deep-dive into the DC Comics universe shrugs off the action-oriented demands of a conventional blockbuster to focus intently on the psychological destruction of its chief antagonist.

A gang of wayward youths steal the advertising board he has been hired to twirl in colourful apparel and vicious beat the mentally unstable loner when he chases them down an alley. Arthur returns home, bloodied and bruised, to his ailing mother Penny (Frances Conroy), a former employee of billionaire philanthropist Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) who has announced his candidacy for mayor. Penny unintentionally drizzles scorn on her son's dream of performing stand-up - "Don't you have to be funny to be a comedian?" - and Arthur seeks comfort in the nightly broadcast of talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), who he fancifully imagines as the doting father he never had. An impromptu act of violence on a subway train propels Arthur into the glare of the media's eye. Joker is deeply disquieting, capturing the anti-establishment sentiment which has shaken mainstream politic establishments to their foundation.