The award for the “Most Divisive Film of 2019” is set stone. This film will certainly spawn hundreds of reviews, think pieces (including this one), and tweets about whether this film is good or bad for society. The most divisive and controversial movie of 2019 is Joker.
Based on the DC Comics character of the same name, Joker, which stars Joaquin Phoenix, premiered at the Venice Film Festival this past weekend to a widespread critical reaction and thunderous applause including an eight-minute standing ovation. If you thought a comic book movie didn’t belong at a serious film festival, think again. Venice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera said, “Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is outstanding and Todd Phillips did a great job,” and that the film should be in the running for multiple Oscars including Best Picture.
Joker stars Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a failed, mentally ill stand up comedian who turns to a life of crime and chaos due to his lack of success in Gotham City in 1981. Joker shows the rise of Fleck and the events that would shape him into the Joker, one of Batman’s biggest foes.
Based off early reviews, Phoenix gives a masterful performance that could be considered his magnum opus. In the trailers, Phoenix’s physical over-the-top acting and willing to go “all-in” are on full display. Phoenix’s ribs and shoulder blades are protruding due to his 52-pound weight loss. His laugh is based on people suffering from pathological laughter. Phoenix’s Fleck looks like a man who has been beaten and cast off by society, only to rise when he embraces his inner demons.
Ever since a movie about the Joker was announced in 2017, fans have been divided on the character. On one hand, a Joker origin story is something that is interesting and has never been done before. Having an ensemble cast which includes the great Robert De Niro makes this film feel important. It even garnered the interest of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio in the developmental process. On the other hand, seeing anyone play the Joker besides the late Heath Ledger, who gave the greatest performance in a comic book movie of all time, would be disappointing. Jared Leto gave it his all in Suicide Squad, but his Joker could never live up to the performance that Heath gave in The Dark Knight.
As previously stated, Joker will stir the pot and cause a lot of controversy upon its release. As much praise as Phoenix’s performance and Phillips’ direction have received, there have been plenty of negative remarks. Robbie Collin of the Telegraph compared Joker to Fight Club, saying, “Make no mistake, this is a film that is going to stir up trouble – in the consciences of everyone who watches it, and almost certainly in the outside world as well.” Expect a lot of opinion pieces, whether fair or unjust, on issues over mental health, violence, and the potential for “copycat” crimes.
With that being said, Joker has a release date of October 4, which is a prime awards season date. Can Joker become a serious player this awards season? If Phoenix continues to receive universal acclaim, his chances of receiving a Best Actor nomination are very high. Best Picture is a more interesting debate. Will the Academy vote for a comic book movie for a Best Picture nomination for the second straight year? If Joker is a box office hit and a critical success, it will be hard to leave Joker off the Best Picture ballot.
Joker is a film that will portray violence, brutality, and chaos that will send a chill down your spine. Since it’s based on one of the most sinister and cruel villains in comic book history, would you expect anything less?
Are you excited to see Joaquin Phoenix in Joker? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us @unafraidshow.