Joker has already been heaped with critical acclaim amongst film reviewers. However, some have expressed concern in regards to the film’s supposed potential to spark empathy with a disillusioned and disregarded homicidal loner.
Film critic Robbie Collin asked Phoenix whether Joker could ‘perversely end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results’.
At this point, Phoenix reportedly left the interview and did not return until the issue was resolved following ‘an hour’s peace-brokering’ with a press representative from Warner Bros.
Upon his return, Phoenix was apparently far more ‘boyishly open’, enthusiastically discussing the role which some have suggested could well earn him an Oscar nomination.
Phoenix told said how it was the quality of the script which first seized his attention:
Typically, the motivations of characters in most movies, certainly in the superhero genre, are very clear,
And that wasn’t the case in this, and to me, that was a challenge. There was something there to explore that I didn’t fully understand.
Drawing inspiration from disturbing cinematic character studies such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, Joker is being hailed as a chilling new classic in the genre.
A far cry from the glossy superhero adventures which have dominated the box office over the past few years, Joker is a grim and often sympathetic exploration of an unravelling mind.
The plot follows deluded would-be comedian Arthur Fleck, who feels ignored by society. His bitterness ultimately becomes murderous hate, in a tale some have worried will resonate with those from the so-called ‘incel’ community; individual who regard themselves to be ‘involuntarily celibate’.
The scenes punctuated with gun violence – as well as the themes of vengeance and taking control through bloodshed – has made many feel uneasy in an era of mass shootings and murderous internet ideologies.
Phoenix prepared for the iconic role by watching footage of pseudobulbar affect; an emotional condition where sufferers experience uncontrollable laughter and tears.