Did you hear that Joaquin Phoenix won the Golden Globe for his role as the title character in Joker? You probably did, I imagine.
Did you know that, coincidentally, Joker is out today on Blu-ray? Maybe.
Here’s the next question, though. If you were one of the many who saw the film in theatres, helping make it the biggest grossing R-rated film in history, is it worth watching again?
I wondered that myself after first seeing Joker in the theatre during its initial run. Would I want to watch this again? While I was completely captivated by Joaquin Phoenix’s outstanding performance, there was a big part of me that walked out afterwards feeling dirty, as though I’d faced down something dark and not come out clean on the other side.
Director Todd Phillips gave Joker that gritty Scorsese in the ’70s vibe we’ve all talked about, creating a film of that moment but also of the one we’re in right now. At the time, I didn’t agree with how Albert Fleck/Joker was propped up at the end of the film by the violent, rioting masses. It felt like the wrong message to put out into the world in 2019, a celebration of depravity, even if it felt like it was an acutely accurate one. However, with time having passed, I think my initial discomfort with Joker came from the (perhaps unnecessarily) worry that the film would instigate or inspire violence. I’ll admit to an unease sitting in the IMAX theatre in Toronto, wondering if I was safe. I’ll also admit to being royally pissed off at the douchebag who twice opened his cell phone, only to shut it for good after my friend and I not so politely asked him to shut it down.
I originally didn’t feel the need to revisit Joker so soon after seeing it, so my plan was to spend my time watching the bonus features on the Blu-ray. But with my Saturday afternoon clear, I surprised myself by pushing ‘play movie’ on my tv screen when the disc’s menu came up. From there, I surprised myself even further when I finished watching Joker and thought, ‘I kinda like this movie.’ Which is a weird thing to feel, because I don’t think Joker is designed to be a movie you like, is it? It IS dark and downbeat and doesn’t leave you feeling very good about yourself or the world. Why did I like it?
Then it hit me that some of the movies I adore aren’t designed to be liked either. I mean, I LOVE The Shining, I love everything about it, but a feel-good film it ain’t. And yet, I find myself captivated by it every time I put it on. The same with Apocalypse Now, my absolute favourite film of all time, and definitely not a laugh riot. Both The Shining and Apocalypse Now delve into dark places, whether you like it or not. I just happen to like it, just as I happened to like Joker even more on this second viewing. The performances, the score, the vibe. Mikey, I liked it!
What I also liked was the making-of featurette that comes with the Blu-ray, where director Phillips, Phoenix and other cast and crew (including Joker‘s Golden Globe-winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir) go into detail about the creation of the film, from the story and choreography to the soundtrack and its locations. Bear in mind, I don’t say great detail, because, at roughly twenty-two minutes, the featurette was just too short for such a noteworthy film, but getting any insight into the creative process on Joker is interesting. There’s also a brief but enlightening short that highlights the different takes Phoenix did as Joker when the character walks onto the Murray Franklin Show.
Joaquin Phoenix won the Golden Globe for his performance, and I’m guessing he’s on his way to the Oscar as well (unless the Force is strong with Adam Driver and his work in Marriage Story). Removed now from the hype, I was able to get an even deeper appreciation for his work in Joker, along with the film as a whole, and for that alone, it was worth a second viewing.