Are we all Jokers? Joker movie review

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The cinematic library has added yet another movie with the arch-villain the Joker. Has Hollywood run out of ideas and resolved to make the same movies over and over again? Joker answers this question with a slap-in-your-face “no.” A movie with the Joker is nothing original. But this Joker is a completely new reflection of society today.

Joker takes place in a failing Gotham City during the 1970s. The main character, Arthur Fleck, is a struggling rent-a-clown and aspiring stand-up comedian. He sees a city therapist and takes medication to control a condition that makes him laugh uncontrollably, which scares or angers the people around him.

As society becomes more uncivil, Fleck slowly becomes insane. The music, composed by Hildur Gudnadottir, features a cello that makes a mournful, eerie sound that matches well with Arthur’s slow descent into insanity. He loses his therapist and is attacked by teenagers. After several drunk Wall Street thugs beat him up, Fleck shoots them and is transformed into Joker, turning down a path of murder and destruction.

The violence is graphic and brutal – shootings and vivid stabbings accompanied with blood splattering. If you have a weak stomach or can’t stand blood, then watch Joker at your own risk. (It is rated R.) 

But the violence is not the most disturbing part of the film. It is the portrayal of the character Fleck, played by a phenomenal Joaquin Phoenix, as an abused character who begs for our sympathy. The Jokers played by Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger in previous films were portrayed as criminal masterminds . But Fleck is an odd, quirky loner living with his mother and a victim of society’s abuse. He represents any one of us because many can relate to his struggles.

But the final course of action he takes is ultimately wrong. He becomes as cruel as the people who tormented him. In fact, critics worry that this movie will provide people with an excuse to turn to violence.

Another disturbing aspect is how the film reflects the divide between the rich and poor in America today. In the movie, Thomas Wayne, one of the richest citizens of Gotham, is running for mayor and describes poor people as clowns. In response, the struggling people of Gotham elevated the Joker. During protests, they put on clown masks to show their support. They are united by their anger, but it leads them to a mindless course of destruction on the streets of Gotham. It is a terrifying realization that the same could occur in America’s current political climate. 

Joker is obviously not a family-friendly movie; its dark elements are inappropriate for younger people. But Joaquin Phoenix’s outstanding performance, the movie’s realistic plot, and how much the film relates to America today could make it an Oscar contender. It has already won the top prize at the Venice International Film Festival. Despite the controversy behind this movie, the Joker may have the last laugh.