For eighty years the Joker has provided a twisted counterpoint to Batman, testing both the Caped Crusader and Gotham City’s values and convictions in ways both silly and sinister. In Joker, director and screenwriter Todd Phillips and lead actor Joaquin Phoenix have given one of the most (in)famous characters in all of fiction his own creation myth, a critique in its own way to Batman’s well-worn origin story.

Don’t expect a movie about the Clown Prince of Crime. Joker is the story of a man called Arthur Fleck… an impoverished, forgotten, and desperately lonely man that’s struggling at his job as a clown-for-hire. Struggling to be a comedian. Struggling to care for his elderly mother. Struggling with a mental illness that causes him to laugh uncontrollably.

And all around him, ‘80s-era Gotham City struggles – with growing poverty, rampant crime, and an increasing resentment toward Gotham’s wealthy elite, most prominently represented by Thomas Wayne. It’s in this powder keg of a setting that fate, a faltering social safety net, and Arthur’s crumbling psyche collide to send Arthur – and Gotham – down a dark, irrevocable path.

Anchored by Phoenix’s wiry, disturbing portrayal of a man left behind by society and set in a grimy, realistic version of Gotham City, Joker isn’t like any comic book movie you’ve ever seen – inspired by Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, it synthesizes elements of both films (most especially a delightful turn as a late-night host by Robert De Niro) into something original and deeply terrifying. - Alamo Drafthouse



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