”Joker, directed by Todd Philips, centers around an origin of the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone story not seen before on the big screen. The film is an exploration of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) a man disregarded by society who is not only a gritty character study but also, a broader cautionary tale.”-Warner Bros.
Before beginning, this is not a movie review on the 2019, Joker. The focus of this article is on the cautionary aspect of the film mentioned in the Warner Bros synopsis. It is not a full review complete with spoilers simply because, speaking out of personal opinion, Philips’ version of the notorious villain is not worth reviewing. The cinematography was well done, the acting was grand, only the story failed to enchant. I did however, overtly enjoy the appropriately interwoven legendary voice of Frank Sinatra with tracks like ‘Send in the Clowns’ and ‘That’s Life’. As the readers of Mindless Peace know, I enjoyed David Ayer’s Suicide Squad (2016) and was most dazzled by Jared Leto’s rendition of The Joker and his unhinged relationship with Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) I had as much fun writing about those two in Mad Love as they did on their date night speeding through Gotham City in a purple Lamborghini.
As a writer who prefers stories that are character-driven instead of plot-driven, one would think that I would rush to see a film about how The Joker became the maniacal man I adore. That is what grabbed my attention. However, it was not sustained. The film is in no rush to get to the clown prince of crime in his prime. Instead, we spend over an hour with Arthur Fleck, an unsuccessful stand-up comedian, and part-time party clown. He’s likely in his late thirties, living with his sick mother and is severely dependent on a variety of medications. He goes unnoticed by the public and when he does catch the attention of people it’s unfavorable, unkind, and downright brutal. Arthur Fleck is a victim of the worst of humanity and we can feel him stewing in misery. He’s a man so ignored that he even doubts his own physical existence, as if the reflection staring back at him in the mirror is a ghost. He is very real, contrary to what he feels, and those around him do little to help heal his pain. His only motivation is to be a comedian to which his own mother responds, ”don’t you have to be funny to do that?” It’s legitimately hard to watch a grown man get pushed around like a stray dog covered in fleas but he doesn’t stay beaten down . Every offense, every cruelty, every abuse Arthur suffers causes him to become more and more disturbed. Joker plays out like Dahmer’s growing years in My Friend Dahmer (2017, Marc Meyers).
Todd Philips’ take on The Joker tries to be so different from the versions told dozens of times before, which it does do quite well, but it may have left a little too much fantasy behind and pushed the story into a new genre altogether. Instead of creating a blend of madness and mystery, Joker felt like a serial killer biopic or something like Netflix’s Mindhunter.
I would rate it 6/10. I enjoyed it but I came to see the, swinging from a chandelier, smile so threatening it knots up your stomach, completely coo-coo Joker. Not some sorrowful, dingy, depressing version of Fight Club. Thankfully, it did get to the mayhem I was excited to see but it took far too long. As I said, this is not a movie review but a PSA. The two scenes I’d like to address that could act as a service to the public are scenes that don’t spoil much, one could be but not without context, so I won’t provide any.
“Knock, knock. What do you get when you cross a mentally-ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash?”-Joker
It sparks the question, are we helping the mentally-ill or are we worsening their symptoms? Next is the scene that was the greatest personal takeaway, listed below in a manner that hopefully does not qualify as a spoiler. If it does spoil, it won’t ruin much.
[Gary is unable to open the apartment door as Arthur had put the chain on the door earlier]
Gary: Hey, Arthur?
Arthur Fleck: Yeah?
Gary: Arthur, can you get the lock?
Arthur Fleck: Sh*t. Sorry, Gary.
[Arthur goes to open the door, but closes it again]
Arthur Fleck: Gary?
Arthur Fleck: You’re the only one that’s ever been nice to me.
[he kisses the top of Gary’s head and opens the door]
Arthur Fleck: Get out of here.
[Gary rushes out the door]
This was an absolutely incredible scene in my mind. An illustration of mercy and the power of love conquering chaos. The kiss on the forehead that came out of grizzly elements in that scene is like staring down the barrel of a gun and when the trigger is pulled, there’s no bullet, the gun jams, life is spared. Breathing is possible again. Something terrible happened and it is a character’s kindness that literally saves him. Kindness not only at that frightening moment, but moments of kindness previously practiced that compiled together and paid off substantially. That is why I’m nice to people. Even when I don’t want to be.
As the years go on and my faith in Christ roots in deeper I become more and more compassionate and I myself am constantly reminded about how much I want to be loved. How can I demand love and not love others? The world needs no more hypocrites. I love people because I am loved and I want to give that love away. In addition, I do it because if I were in the same room with The Joker on a bad day, I would not be the target of his wrath and pain. I would be Gary, the one he not only spared but protected and even nurtured because that’s what love does, it covers a multitude of sins. I treat people the way I want to be treated because love builds bridges where there are none. In that dreary apartment with Joker and the macabre happenings that erupted, love is the bridge that provoked the villain to get up and pleasantly unlock the door when Gary was not tall enough to reach the lock himself. He couldn’t do it alone, love was his escape. It’s important that we do this as a society. It’s important that we work together and complement one another and encourage each other. It is imperative that no person casts another aside. We’re all human, we’re all valuable, we all have the same significant worth. We are diamonds and we need to help each other shine. I love unconditionally so that if-God forbid-I am ever in the proximity of a madman, we’ll end up singing Sinatra and laughing together.