People with mental health issues are prime candidates to be serial killers, is essentially what seems to be the core premise of Joker. Are you joking?
That is not funny, definitely not when you see and know of so many who battle their illnesses to move onward and forward, fighting that constant battle of light and shadow, relentlessly. What a disservice!
If I weren’t so furious, I would probably cry.
Joaquin Phoenix is a talented actor. His performance as the insidious Commodus in Gladiator to the gritty portrayal of Christ in Mary Magdalene, have shown his scale of talent and potential. Joker is watchable in exactly those parts wherein the camera acts as a voyeur into his struggle with the futility of his circumstance. He engages and for just that short while the movie’s attempt at channelling Samuel Beckett stops failing miserably. The subway scene is especially notable, as for a brief moment you connect to the fear swelling up within the loner.
The master of absurd it is not, it is just absurd how the director Todd Phillips attempts to address every ill in modern society within a span of 122 minutes. His past work includes Starsky and Hutch, The Hangover Trilogy and Due Date. I think he has a thing for comedy.
I digress… I guess it’s the movie’s intellectual impact.
The society and system have failed Arthur Fleck miserably. Son to Penny, played by the highly talented American actress Frances Conroy, Fleck is diligent in his care of her. A gentle, tolerant child with severe social incompetence issues. But, the world fails to see that and mocks him for being weird.
At no point is this story arc truly explored, it feels more like Phillips was given several storyboards and he went: “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe… I want this, and this and that.” Okay, just kidding. But, it seems like that.
Most characters are barely sketched, with Gotham shown as the hub of all things evil. To paraphrase Shakespeare, hell must be empty, as all the devils are in Joker’s city. A strong undercurrent of rebellion lashes at the foundations of the city’s social structure. Reminiscent of the Bolshevik revolution, the have nots strike out against the rich, while looting and destroying all in sight. And the failed comedian Arthur Fletcher is that trigger point in this unleashing of the Chaos Theory.
And into this swirl are added moments of violence that are meant to communicate the menace of an unhinged mind gone over the brink.
Ryan Gosling in Drive, Jeff Bridges in The Vanishing or Robert DeNiro in Cape Fear are probably far more disturbing. Joker in some measure attempts to pay cinematic tribute to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, you can see it in the low angles and the greyness of the city. But, a cult classic it is not.