Joker review – Joaquin Phoenix’s villain has last laugh in twisted tale

Photo of Joker review – Joaquin Phoenix’s villain has last laugh in twisted tale

Todd Phillips’s daring reboot of the DC Comics antihero is brilliantly brought to life by its star – with a little help from Martin Scorsese

Joaquin Phoenix provides a comic-book hero for the left behind with Joker, a brilliantly insurrectionist origins story that landed like a firecracker in the midst of this year’s Venice film festival. Playing the role of Cain to the sunny Abel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Todd Phillips’s blockbuster charts the formative years of Batman’s nemesis, rewinding to his time as a failed standup in grubby Gotham City, when he was lonesome and lost and out of joint with the world. Audaciously, it’s a film that invites us to love the monster.

Eyes rolling, jaw working, Phoenix stars as Arthur Fleck, rattling with seven different medications and brandishing a laminated card that reads: “Forgive my laughter. I have a condition.” He longs to be a comedian, but goes to pieces on stage. He’d like to work as a party entertainer, but is fired when he drops a handgun in the children’s ward. Happily, this lowly worm is about to turn. By God, his tormentors are going to sit up and take notice. First they ignore him, then they laugh at him, and then they die.

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