This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Christopher Stewart’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Quite possibly the best comic book movie I've seen.
The attention to detail in the world and characters is so impactful as it tells the story of a mentally ill man just trying to make it, finding his life unravel into something he doesn't recognize. Arthur Fleck is a guy with the best of intentions, suffering with a condition (that turned out to be trauma) he can't manage to get his life together, he lives humbly as a clown for hire, taking care of his mother, watching a show the movie makes clear early on is hosted by someone Arthur sees as a father figure. What follows is every facet of his life being pushed to the edge as he find catharsis on the margins of his suffering instead of being able in any way to mitigate the suffering. He feels betrayed and wronged by every influence in his life, from his co-workers, to his romantic prospects, to society, to his TV hero and even his past and his family. This movie weaves from being misery porn to a psychological thriller seamlessly as Arthur is stripped of every peace he had in his shaky life and can only feel validation on the auxiliary thru the impact of his impulsive actions. The perfect storm culminates as the world is set in a Gotham experiencing a recession, a labor struggle and increasing class hostility, his actions mistaken for an act of righteous defiance to the rich elite, the Joker comes to be in classic Joker fashion, creating a splash that cascades into chaos. The movie being an origin story, the theme hits it's money shot here. The Joker is a chaotic figure, an alienated figured, he doesn't believe in anything and acts from a hatred with the status quo with no desire or intention to fix, reconcile or mend the issues that drove him mad, for chaos is the only way he knows he exists.
It's easy to forget that this is a comic book movie for one of the most popular villains to exist in the medium, because it takes a step back from the hero of the story and depicts the world in such a way that could be considered "real life", it's relate-able, it's sympathetic, it's grim, it's ugly, and it's selfish, it's dark, but tries to find light somewhere. The surrealism of the movie comes in with Arthur dancing, the formation to and eventual collapse from sanity, Arthur dances when he experiences the chaotic catharsis he's come to rely on for validation. The surrealism is also supplanted with soundtrack dissonance, with bright and happy songs playing near the end to showcase Joker's separation from orthodoxy. Again, the attention to detail is excellent.
All this without speaking of the acting prowess of the entire cast, every character is played extremely well, you don't see the actors playing them, you see the characters, you see Arthur, Randal, Murray, etc, the direction, the lighting, the set pieces, the pacing. This movie is near flawless in what it set out to do. It makes you wonder how a batman story would work in this world.
The movie is so much more than the outrage that revolved around it and the memes that came from it.
I would recommend it if you like psychological thrillers, anti hero stories, tragedies, or something that might hit close to home.