​Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Douglas Hodge, Dante Pereira-Olson, Glenn Fleshler, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Marc Maron, Leigh Gill, Josh Pais, Brian Tyree Henry, Justin Theroux
Written by Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
Based on characters created by DC Comics
Directed by Todd Phillips
Produced by Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper, Emma Tillinger Koskoff
Cinematography by Lawrence Sher
Edited by Jeff Groth
Music by Hildur Guonadottir

NOTE: This is a brief, preliminary review. A more complete, full, in-depth review will be posted soon.

​Prepare to be blown away (figuratively, not literally): Todd Phillips’ stark, dark, realistic, real-life, reality-based Gothic drama and case study in mental illness, “Joker,” is an instant classic–and a film that dares to not only present mental illness front and center, but dares to take that examination of the darkest corners of the mind and soul straight into viewers heads, planting the film’s various messages, themes and morals there in such a manner filmgoers will indeed have plenty to think about–and worry about–after watching this movie.

“Joker” is easily one of the better films of the year; as noted, an intelligent, in-depth study of mental illness; an equally-intelligent study of how societal breakdowns in various areas of life subsequently contribute to widespread violence, anarchy, more breakdowns–and more mental illness; and a film that features simply an award-worthy and certain Academy Award-winning, bravura, brave, breathtaking lead performance by Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, or the Joker.

Much like Heath Ledger’s Academy Award-winning and equally-bravura performance as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” Phoenix completely, scarily and amazingly loses himself in some dark hole of psycho lunacy and insanity and, in turn, delivers one of the most daring, brave, shocking and mesmerizing film acting performances in years.

This weekend (the weekend of October 4, 5 and 6, 2019), go see “Joker.”

A warning, though: This is not a cheerful, funny, upbeat regular ol’ superhero or even supervillain movie. This is a straight-ahead, dark, morbid, Gothic, dread-filled, intense, suspenseful and entirely mature and adult-themed, R-rated, violent dramatic study of insanity, lunacy and mental illness. That’s what “Joker” is all about. So leave the kids under 16 at home. But definitely see this film–and be prepared to be–darkly, grittily and harshly–entertained.

Matt Neufeld

Matt Neufeld

Matt Neufeld is a longtime journalist, actor and film critic in the Washington and Baltimore areas. He has participated in many local film events and projects in the region, and he has appeared as an actor, supporting actor and extra in more than 45 films projects, at all levels, during the past 20 years.