Directed, Co-Written and Produced by Todd Phillips
In the midst of a failing Gotham City, troubled Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is mistreated by society. As his insanity grows, his life and mental health take a downward spiral towards becoming the infamous Joker.
The cast was absolutely amazing. From top to bottom they gave amazing performances. Some view Joaquin Phoenix as hit or miss. Others consider him an acquired taste. I am somewhere in between, and I went into this movie hesitant but holy crap! Never thought he would be this good.
One thing Phoenix did was give Arthur three laughs in this film. I actually had to check this out after it was mentioned to me. One is the laugh due to his condition of pathological laughter. The next is the one he uses when trying to fit in such as at the comedy club. And the third is one of genuine joy. Pay attention.
Joker is not a character you normally would or normally should feel pity for, but you genuinely feel bad for Arthur Fleck. You see his struggles trying to get what he needs from an unfeeling bureaucracy to keep his mental illness in check. You see him struggle with loneliness as well as the mental abuse and secrets of his mother Penny (Francis Conroy). You watch as he tries to achieve his dream only to see it turned into a way to humiliate him by soulless celebrity talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro).
The only other thing I know Zazie Beetz from is Deadpool 2. She was good in it. I am not talking great, but she was quite possibly one of the better parts of that movie as the character Domino. I did not have high hopes for her coming into this as I was unfamiliar with any other of her work. I did not think she was bad actress, but I did not she would kill it as Arthur’s “girlfriend” single mother Sophie Dumond. Glad I was wrong. She is an amazing actress. It is like she played three versions of the character here: the one Arthur first met, the one he was involved with and the one in the big reveal at the end.
Arthur is thrown into society and it tears him apart. People are cold and unfeeling and strike out rather than be kind. Arthur has serious problems that if others would take a moment out to understand he could probably deal with better.
Arthur is also the product of abuse, but it is less the abuse than the system that placed him back with the abuser. His mother Penny had serious problems and the choices she made in her life to bring others around him lead to harm as well as the psychological abuse of the lies she told him that he built his whole self-image around. How would any of us really react if we found out that everything our mother or even our father had been telling us all of our lives was a complete lie?
One thing you must understand is that much of what you see in the movie is told through Arthur’s perceptions which are affected by his mental illness. Some have suggested to me that the very end indicates that the events just prior to it are all yet another hallucination by Arthur. An argument can definitely be made for that since there is nothing that shows you how he gets from the top of the police car to the asylum. Could Arthur have been making it all up or just creating a fiction in his mind to do what he did at the end? I do not necessarily agree with that since his trip to the hospital is not important to the narrative, but all good movies leave you with things to think or talk about. And this gives you plenty of both.
They show the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne and that it was not Arthur but an individual with a mask that looked like his Joker face that was responsible. To go into a little bit of head canon I could see how that was Joker disassociating himself from the murder since he had believed all of his life that Thomas Wayne was his father. Killing your dad is an extreme. It was one more act of vengeance but one his broken mind prevented him from realizing responsibility for.
Arthur is a person pushed too far by life. He has been beaten down and lied to and just cannot take it anymore. He strikes out at those that have wronged him. His mother. His coworker. Even his talk show host hero.
It is made clear those in power had failed to take into consideration the people and it led to a continually fracturing society in Gotham. Arthur becomes a symbol of striking against this system even though he could care less about it. He is their hero because they feel powerless and the Joker attacks those that they blame.
Sometimes a movie produces an instantly iconic scene. It is rare when it produces two. Who can forget the moment Arthur is dancing on the steps and has finally given in to the Joker personality? And the scene on The Murray Franklin Show? The whole lead up to the shooting just stands out.
Joker is one of my favorite comic book movies. It is so different and so shocking. In this origin story society is responsible for the villain. And you know something? It might not be too far off in the realm of possibility. This is a comic book movie with a little something to say and that is society has grown cold. Watch it. It will give you something to think about.