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Posted: February 15, 2020

Die laughing

Oscar-Winning blockbuster Joker plays in Cranbrook – one night only

By Ferdy Belland

The character of the Joker stands as the most famous supervillain of the DC Comics Universe – the Eternal Arch-Nemesis of the Batman. A frustrated, failed stand-up comedian who turns to a maniacal life of murderous crime after suffering a horrifying disfigurement in the aftermath of a chemical industrial accident – the Joker’s trademark appearance (chalk-white face, bright green hair, blood-red rictus-grinning lips, and wild, crazed eyes) is impossible to mistake, even if one’s never read a single comic book.

Cesar Romero

Since the character first appeared in print appearance in 1940, the Joker has been brought to cinematic life over a nearly 60-year span by a long line of notable actors, each of whom have left their own indelible stamps on the Clown Prince of Crime: the campy Cesar Romero (1960s TV series), the darker Jack Nicholson (1989’s Batman), the creepazoid Heath Ledger (2008’s The Dark Knight), and the zany Jared Leto (2016’s Suicide Squad). Which brings us to the subject of Joaquin Phoenix – who rightfully won the Oscar for Best Actor at the 2020 Academy Awards.

The REP proudly presents Joker, screening one night only (Friday February 28; doors 7 p.m., showtime 7:30 p.m.) at the Studio Stage Door Theatre (11-11th Ave S.).

There will be only 80 tickets available ($10 each at the door), so don’t miss this.

Director Todd Phillips is known mostly for hit comedies such as Road Trip, the Hangover trilogy, and Borat, but here he’s created a gripping psychological thriller that makes one squirm in their seat – and for a subject matter supposedly involving a character who laughs all the time, there is nothing very funny (or even amusing) happening on-screen.

The storyline and feel of Joker owes a conceptual debt to the 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke, written by the legendary graphic novelist Alan Moore (the brilliant mind behind Watchmen, the ultimate anti-superhero story of all time). Joker is a superhero movie squinted at through the gritty, greasy lens of Taxi Driver.

Joaquin Phoenix’s teeth-clenching portrayal of a mentally-distressed man falling apart on the mean streets of 1981 Gotham City isn’t as uncomfortably voyeuristic as some of Joker’s critics have claimed. This is a superhero movie without the superhero trappings everyone’s come to expect over the past decade of billion-dollar CGI-larded global blockbusters, and as such there’s a very tense stab of realism that vibrates through the plot.

There’s nothing cheesy or campy or goofy about Phoenix’s Joker. This is a warped, sadistic psychopath. He scares the living hell out of his enemies. Well, he scares the living hell out of everyone.

Any anxiety-riddled social misfit one shuns on the city sidewalks could snap their way into Jokerville at the drop of a cane. The laughs here are chilling. The scenes are disturbing. The scenes are violent.

And you can’t take your eyes away from the screen, or the story. Come and see for yourself.


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