This movie is about the origin story of the villain called The Joker (played by the brilliant Joaquin Phoenix). He is a failed stand-up comedian who gets picked on and gradually becomes a psychopath. The full cast is: Robert De niro as Murray Franklin, Zazie Beetz as Sophie Dumond Shea Whigham as Untitled, Frances Conroy as Penny (rumored), Bryan Callen as Untitled, Bill Camp as Untitled, Marc Maron as Untitled, Glenn Fleshler as Untitled, Douglas Hodge as Alfred Pennyworth, Brett Cullen as Thomas Wayne, Josh Pais as Hoyt Vaughn, Jolie Chan as Street Worker, Dante Pereira-olson as Young Bruce Wayne and Mary Kate malat as Murray Franklin Intern.
There is a TV broadcast. The era feels like the 70s. Arthur Fleck (played by the talented and experienced Joaquin Phoenix) is putting on his makeup. He's a professional clown. The news says there is a garbage situation in the city. No company has bothered to clean the city and it stinks.
"Arthur looks at himself in the mirror and pulls his mouth into a makeshift smile. He paints on blue eyes and a big red smily mouth very roughly. But he doesn't look that happy hehe. Instantly you realise that Arthur is depressed and some what anxious. He is rake thin and you can see years of stress on his face. What a great way to introduce a character"
Arthur dances outside a store with a yellow sign. His clown company hired him for this job. Teenagers take his sign and run. He chases them.
"They slam him with his own sign and it breaks in pieces. The teens then beat him up on the ground. Arthur is shaken. This is the beginning of Arthur's bad luck and what will become his downward spiral"
We cut to a scene of Arthur laughing hard awkwardly but also crying out. He's at his psychologists office. "Is it me or is it getting crazier out there" says Arthur. The Psychologist agrees. She asks him to show her his journal. He says to her that he's also pursuing a career in stand up comedy. "Does it help to have someone to talk to?" says the Psychologist. But he says it was better in hospital. He says he doesn't want to feel bad anymore. The great mood in this scene is created from the violins soundtrack here.
Arthur does faces on the bus and laughs hard. People are not pleased. He feels rejected. Arthur comes back to his place.
"I must say Joaquin Phoenix's face is very expressive. He suits this role of a quiet depressed man. He wears his heart on his sleeve and you visually see his despair in every look. Wonderful acting by Phoenix"He lives with his mother. He takes care of her. The News says the city is over run by rats now. Then the TV show "Murray Franklin Live" begins. Murray Franklin is a TV host and played by the reliable and super talented Robert Deniro. Arthur watches the show with his mom on her bed. He appears to have a good relationship with her.
Arthur dreams that he is in the actual audience of Murray Franklin Live. Arthur gets called out by Murray and Arthur says he mainly takes care of his mom. But it's only a fantasy. Then we see Arthur in his change room at the clown company headquarters. His friends joke around. The Jokers laugh is funny this time. But even this time the laugh is laced with some sort of depression. Arthur is rake thin.
"His boss is furious that he lost the sign. Arthur has nothing left but to leave to leave the room and takes it out on the trash bags outside by kicking them. You feel for Arthur but at this point in the movie some would say that this guy was just down on his luck. But you feel that Phoenix cleverly starts adding more layers to this character during this period"
We cut to his home and he chats to his mom in the bathtub. The radio soundtrack is awesome, old time tracks. Arthur dances in his house to the old tracks. In this dance we see that Arthur expresses his creative side. He is some what relaxed during this scene. Arthur had gotten hold of a gun. He dances and fires it accidentally inside house. We cut to Arthur in a standup comedy night, he is part of the audience. He laughs with his wierd funny laugh at the comedians performing. He writes down comedy material. Then at home he continues to write in his journal.
Then he gets a visitor, the neighbour (Sophie played by the beautiful Zazie Beetz). Sophie lives with her kid next door.
"She says to Arthur 'Have you been following me'. He says yes but they both smile and get along. It's a happy moment for him. It's one of the few times you see a glimmer of hope for Arthur. What he needed all along perhaps was good company. But the isolation he endured for years must have taken it's toll"We cut to a hospital and Arthur is there entertaining the sick kids. He accidentally drops his gun. His boss is furious at this accident and fires him.
Arthur goes home by train. Some business men are bothering a woman. She looks to to Arthur. Arthur starts laughing hard to distract them. The men then direct their attention to him and take off his clown hair.
"They land a big punch on his jaw and kick him brutally. Arthur then shoots two of them with his gun. He lands the fatal shots. The audience gasps. One man escapes. Arthur chases him and the man trips on the stairs. He shoots him several times on the stairs repeatedly and there's blood everywhere. This scene shocks you. Because up until this point you have only seen the docile side to Arthur. We knew he was depressed but this transformation into a violent aggressor leaves you speechless, wow"
Once again the soundtrack kicks in, slightly more dark.
"The lighting at night is also bleak but somewhat colourful. The wasted pastel set design colour scheme helps create the mood of the film. There is a bleakness to the city of Gotham"After that intense bout of violence, Arthur goes into a public bathroom in the city.
"There is silence. Arthur does one of his slow dances to get rid of his nervous tension perhaps. But it's also partly a celebration, this time he had gotten his way. He goes back to his apartment and kisses the lady neighbour Sophie with vigour hehe. In these scenes we witness the brilliant transformation of Arthur into the Joker"
We cut to Arthur in his last day at work. He is in good spirits. He jokes around with the other workers and punches the punchout card machine and it falls. His mom and him watch Tom Wayne speaking about the city and the train murders. We cut to Arthur at his psychologists office. Arthur says to her "You don't listen do you... you always ask the same questions... Am I having negative thoughts". The psychologits says "Their closing our office.. they don't give a shit about you".
We cut to the comedy night. Arthur performs in a crisp white shirt with vest, he looks good. It appears that his violent streak was a release for him. He is slightly more confident. But he can't stop laughing when he delivers his lines. Then he tells more jokes and the audience laughs. He leaves with his neighbour Sophie. They read the newspaper about the clown vigilante. We cut to Arthur's place and he's watching "Murray Franklin Live" with his mom. Arthur dances with his mom hehe. He appears happy here.
He receives a letter and opens it. It might be from his real dad his mom explains.
"He is angry at his mom. She concealed the fact that Thomas Wayne might be his father. Arthur then goes to the Wayne mansion. Arthur meets a young Bruce Wayne (the future Batman). I was wondering when the movie was going to make this connection hehe. It was done in a very intriguing manner, the Joker's half brother might be Batman!"Arthur also talks to the Butler behind the big gate to the mansion. The Butler says that Arthur's mother was delusional. Arthur chokes the Butler and then lets him go. Arthur goes home to find his mother taken away in an ambulance. Investigators had gone to the house and wanted to question Arthur. But they questioned his mother and she had gone nuts.
The investigators then question Arthur about the clown murders. He denies everything. They go away. In the hospital Arthur looks at the TV and he's on TV in the "Murray Franklin Live" show! They showed his standup routine! Murray teases him. Back at home Arthur watches TV and sees protests with clown faces. He smiles. Perhaps he feels that his actions may have contributed to this community of protesters.
Thomas Wayne had called the citizens clowns earlier on. Arthur then joins the protests and laughs surrounded by clown faced citizens. He dresses up as an usher to enter a theatre where Thomas Wayne is. He enters the bathroom where Tom Wayne is. He says "Penny Fleck is my mother". Wayne says "I'm not your father... you were adopted". Arthur doesn't believe it. "Dad its me". Tom Wayne punches Arthur in the face.
"Brett Cullen as the wealthy Tom Wayne has a small number of scenes but it's a great performance. He's determined to run for Mayor and has a lot of backlash from the community"
Back at home Arthur literally empties his fridge and gets inside it and closes the door. Perhaps he wants to cool off hehe or try and be as isolated as possible. Then in the morning he recieves a phone call from the "Murray Franklin Live" show. They want him on!
Then Arthur visits a mental institution to enquire about his mother. He talks to the clerk and tells him he's slightly on edge but the clerk doesn't want to hear it. He asks about his mother and the clerk gets the file out.
"Arthur steals the file and Arthur runs through the halls hurridly. It's a well shot scene with Arthur running at speed through the corridor looking back. The editing, lighting and sound work tremendously well here to create an impactful scene. Arthur is enquiring about his past and he is stressed"Arthur reads the file and finds that his mother abused him and malnourished him. Arthur laughs with his usual weird hard laugh.
Arthur visits the Sophie, his neighbour. Sophie tells Arthur to please leave. Perhaps he had dreamed all their interactions. We find out through flashback scenes that he had imagined her with him all along. He leaves Sophie and returns to his apartment and laughs hard.
Arthur visits his mother in the hospital. He says that people had told him that his laugh was a condition. But he says that's just the way he was. He then smothers his mother with a pillow and ends her life. He had found out about his childhood and he probably didn't like the way he was treated. But Arthur was going through a lot of stress by this point (his condition, trying to find his real father, getting over his violence etc.) and that also contributed to this scene.
At home Arthur practices his comedy set for Murray.
"He's dressed in a dark red outfit with a white shirt. Arthur dies his hair green. He puts on his white makeup. The character design for Arthur/Joker was innovative. You come to realise that the make up was part of his identity. He was also rake thin and somewhat defenseless which added to the intrigue of the character"His friends from his old job, (a little person called Gary played Leigh Gill) visits with another tall guy.
"The tall guy says the cops have been asking questions at work. Then Arthur attacks him with a knife repeatedly, blood goes everywhere. Gruesome scene. The little person Gary escapes with his life. Arthur says he can leave. But little Gary can't reach the door handle! HAHAHA! At this point in time this is hilarious. Arthur opens the door for him hehe. Arthur says 'You were good to me Gary' and kisses little Gary on the forehead HAHAHA! This hilariousness is thrown in amongst some very brutal violence. You don't know whether to laugh or gasp. It made for a memorable scene"
Then we cut to a scene of Arthur on the big city staircase dancing. The two investigators ask Arthur to stop, they want to question him. So they chase him. He enters a train full of clowns. The other clowns attack the cops. Arthur escapes and walks away relaxed from the train station. We cut to the "Murray Franklin Live" show. Arthur is preparing.
"Arthur meets Murray (played by Robert Deniro). Great acting here by Deniro. Deniro plays a simple old time talk show host to perfection. He plays Murray as slightly cocky and outspoken"Arthur tells Murrary that he wants to be called "Joker". Backstage the Joker does his dance.
On stage, the Arthur dances and prances. He is dressed in a dark red suit. He kisses the old woman guest on the lips who is sitting down hehe. Arthur laughs hard. He is asked to tell a joke. He tells a crude knock knock joke that Murray doesn't like.
Suddenly Arthur admits to killing those people on the train. The crowd gasps. Arthur says to Murray "Those people were awful, everybody is awful these days.. it's crazy". Arhtur critises Thomas Wayne. Arthur says to Murray "Your awful Murray". Then Arthur dramatically shoots Murray. It's a harsh unexpected scene. The cops arrest Arthur.
Then there are riots in the streets because of what Arthur did. Arthur is transported in the police car. A van crashes into the cop car deliberately and they remove Arthur from it and place him on top of car. Then an arbitrary clown protester shoots Tom Wayne and his wife in front of the young Bruce Wayne. This is another nice connection to the previous Batman plots.
"Then Arthur/Joker stands up on the cop car and salutes the clowns and protesters. He does his dance. For this small moment, Arthur feels like he's on top. This is his moment"His laughter carries on to his next scene. He is now hand cuffed and in an institution. We cut to Bruce Wayne in an alley way looking at his parents passed away on the ground.
"Arthur laughs and laughs. 'You wouldn't get it' he says to the social worker/nurse. He leaves that room and walks away through the corrider. He walks away and dances. A Frank Sinatra tune 'That's life' plays in the backgound"Arthur is locked up, he didn't escape, there was no great victory. What an intriguing ending.
"What I loved about this movie was the mood that the set design, lighting and soundtrack created. Joaquin Phoenix was perfectly cast. He excelled in Arthur's character development. In just 2hr 2min we witness a full transformation from Arthur Fleck to the Joker. That made the movie for me. The supporting characters should also take a bow. Robert Deniro as Murray Franklin brought an authenticity to that era. Zazie Beets had a small role but her interaction with Arthur was not to be missed. Brett Mullen as Thomas Wayne had screen presence. Arthur's work mates were also well casted"The character of the Joker has been played well by many actors, most recently by the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Joaquin Phoenix had big clown shoes to fill! hehehe. He did it with class and subtlety. What a magnificent peformance. It could be Oscar territory. Enjoy the impactful and riveting 2hrs 2min.