As I watched the credits roll on Joker, I felt as if the message of the movie would be twisted by those who think the story is about them. Some call them “incels”, but ultimately, they are self-deluded individuals who, more often than not, share traits with those that suffer from mental illness. I saw the message of this movie as those that suffer from mental illness are abandoned by society, and left to fend for themselves. And when they find they cannot, they break. They become a shell of who they were. Not all do. Some are strong enough to overcome their demons, or at the very least, manage their demons.
Arthur Fleck is a man molded by not society, though it certainly plays a role, but by the actions of the few. These few share in his same pain, they share the fact they have mental illness. It’s a cycle. Much akin to the cycle of poverty vs the rich. It’s a war fought vicariously that benefits only those at the very top. Society is an engine used and tuned by those in control. It runs to their machinations, to their design, and we are enslaved to it. Should we find ourselves outside the engine that is society, we find ourselves cast out and abandoned.
But, this is a story about Joker. About Batman’s nemesis. And to that end, the movie absolutely excels and nails his character. As a villain of the comic book world, he translates perfectly on screen in this one shot as a burgeoning criminal whose acts of violence propagate as symbols in the war against the rich. He becomes an idea. Remind me again who adopts a symbol to become an idea… Oh yea, a guy in a bat costume.
Joaquin Phoenix’s acting here was phenomenal. His mannerism and ticks brought to life the character of the Joker. His laugh perfectly capturing both laughter and pain at once. It’s maniacal. His dancing is a man at joy and happy in his own way, but it comes off as uncomfortable to watch. Like you can feel that there is something wrong with this man. It helps that Joaquin lost weight and his own body helped his performance, often appearing grotesque.
The violence itself wasn’t too strong. You felt it coming. It equated to the anger his character felt, and often matched it. It left you reeling but at the same time, it left you understanding why. It was horrible to watch, as it should be, but it was done with purpose. I didn’t feel as if any scene was done just because. Every act pushed the story forward and took Joker further into becoming the psychopath we recognize him as.
As to the movie itself, I feel as if, perhaps, if he was able to be given a voice before his message was twisted by the media, then he could have turned out different. If he was given a chance to heal, to be helped by those who can, he’d not have ended in a dark place. This is a story about whether the ends justify the means, or do the means justify the end. Did he sow chaos and mayhem because of what happened to him throughout his life and so he reacted? Or was he always this way, and what happened was his own response and the media just ran with it to fit a narrative?
This movie holds a powerful message, and it is entirely subjective to the person viewing it. It can be dangerous. But I wish to see more. Not of the Joker, but of DC comics adapted as one shot/one off stories. A singular story with no hint of a sequel. One message. Yet viewed by many different lenses.
I highly recommend this movie.