Put on a happy face, 3.5 readers.
BQB here with a review of Joker.
At the outset, I wondered about the necessity of this film. After all, when we have the Justice League films trying to get off the ground, is it wise to put out a standalone film about Batman’s nemesis set in the early 1980s?
And does a Joker origin story interfere with the Clown Prince of Crime’s mystique? After all, one of the scarier parts of 2008’s The Dark Knight is that the Joker is a wild card, and we know so little about who he is or what motivates him, so he is unpredictable and can’t be reasoned with.
But oh well. Screw all that. The movie was made and if you take it on its own, without delving into deeper comic book nerd considerations, its a rather intense look at how a combination of mental illness and a breakdown of the system can cause a man to snap.
Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a socially awkward loner who eeks out a meager living as a party clown while trying to launch a stand-up comedy career, an art form in which he has no talent whatsoever, despite his grand delusions to the contrary. He dreams of one day being discovered by Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro playing a Johnny Carson-esque late night talk show host.)
Arthur’s reality is much more grim. He lives in squalor and spends his free time taking care of his equally mentally ill mother, Penny (Frances Conroy) while pining for his neighbor, Sophie (Zazie Beetz of Deadpool’s Domino fame.)
Without delving into spoilers, the majority of the film focuses on Arthur’s descent into madness as little by little, the little he had that kept him going is taken away from him. The system is the villain of the film, that cold hearted, uncaring, unfeeling bureaucracy that takes away his psychiatric appointments, his medication, his job, his hopes, his dreams and after plunging him into failure, tells him there’s no opportunity left for him, because he’s such a lousy failure.
This movie has been controversial because, well, I suppose I can’t tell you exactly why without spoiling the ending and admittedly, 3/4th of the movie is a bit of a slog, slowly building up to the ending that leaves you on the edge of your seat when Arthur finally stops giving a shit about the norms of the society that stopped giving a shit about him. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of media concern that this movie celebrates and/or glorifies the idea of people committing violence in attempt to garner attention but…well, at the end of the day, it is a movie and perhaps these concerns miss a point, namely that taking away movies is but a band-aid, whereas developing a comprehensive plan to provide mental health care and opportunities for those who are struggling would be the better solution.
As a comic book nerd, I didn’t like that Batman’s father, Thomas Wayne, is portrayed as a villain. The Waynes are usually portrayed as the only rich people in Gotham who care, so this is a deviation. However, without giving much away, there’s a do-it-yourself aspect to this movie, in that you can choose what you want to believe and what you don’t.