Tuesday, October 27, 2020

1126. Joker

Directed by Todd Phillips 

Our final Halloween movie is one that I knew I was doomed to watch, because the List never misses the opportunity to showcase a white man performing his little heart out. So this was about as inevitable an entry as My Left Foot. I had the preconceived notion that I was about to watch Incel: The Movie and I wasn't that far off.

Arthur Fleck is a failed clown and comedian, who lives with his ailing mother in Gotham City. His mental deterioration is charted throughout the movie and inspires other unhappy citizens to rise up. 

Much like Martin Scorsese, I don't like superhero movies (I am sure Mr. Scorsese would appreciate it if the comparison ended there). Of course, this is barely a superhero movie, but certain tropes crop up anyway. Among those tropes is the lack of moral ambiguity. I know some will argue that the movie is all about moral ambiguity. But I think they simply flipped the script. They made the Joker into the hero and the whole of society the enemy, without picking up any subtleties along the way. 

To me, considering the perspective of the disenfranchised white man doesn't feel all that revolutionary. Authors like Chuck Palahniuk explore this theme often, and even movies like Taxi Driver or King of New York do a better job tackling it. I don't think there is a shortage of artistic works that take on this type of character. 

I keep arguing with my male friends about this movie and honestly, I don't even know what the argument is. I didn't enjoy it, but I don't think I was supposed to enjoy it. I think it wanted me to feel unsettled and complicit in all of Arthur's humiliations. So in that way, it was very effective, and I think I had the desired response.

I guess a mention should be made of the performance. Actors have decided they have to lose their mind and critical body mass to play this role. Joaquin Phoenix does fine here, and laughs, dances, and runs like a psycho.

So in the end, a dark superhero movie. What a fresh take!

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Joaquin Phoenix lost 52 pounds to play Arthur. 

Phoenix improvised the bathroom dance scene. You don't say.


  1. Interesting..

    I was also more than like warm about going to see this, but, as it was on other lists (yes, I know I'm a sad git), and taking a fair guess it would appear in this list, I saw it some time ago and was .. well, I didn't hate it as much as I do for your standard 'super-hero film. Because it isn't, I think a super hero, or even super villain movie.

    Its a character study of a damaged person, with mental health issues and his struggle to cope, and what the isolation from society leads to. I have to admit ignorance as to what sort of works Chuck Palahniuk writes, but I can agree that 'Taxi Driver' does a similar job. Not so sure if it does it better, as (in my opinion) Travis is a lot less a sympathetic character than Arthur.. Travis is more of an active participant in his own fate.

    May I take up one of your points.. 'considering the perspective of the disenfranchised white man doesn't feel all that revolutionary'. Well, maybe not, but surely, that doesn't mean that this film, and it's point is invalid?
    (And yes, I know your name is Amanda, not Shirley)
    Especially in this period of events.

    Wait for this one...

    Is this film a political metaphor?

    We are set in a decaying urban area.. A struggling guy finds his life slipping from his hands in ways he cannot control, has (at first) no direct cause of.. he feels alienated, abandoned,ignored by people who should be there to help.. but they fail. He tries.. he really tries.. he is not a slacker, it's not his fault, but he cannot cope. He looks for people, events, things to blame. Simplistic answers seem to offer solution. A monster, true evil, wrong, but attractive. He gathers followers. Violence, hate, anger follow oh so easily. Others can latch on the 'it's not fair' tag and become part of the problem without realising it. The really disenfranchised and the ones who just want an excuse for their own failings have a flashy, charismatic, utterly self centred, unscrupulous leader they can follow and are prepared to accept evil, anti social, behaviour thinking it is a solution to their real and imagined problems..

    You are getting where I'm going here aren't you??

    I only started to thing of this one as I read your review and started to reply, so not sure how much I believe it..

    But hey, this feels fun.. After ages of lack-lustre replies to decided 'Mehr' films that I neither love or hate, or Amanda reviews that I neither strongly disagree with, a good old style ray rant is back..

    Come on Amanda, make sure you do your best next week...

  2. Very entertained this morning reading both Amanda's review and Ray's comments!Yay for both of you! I didn"t like the movie and fast forwarded much of it. The acting was great, the message received, and it just made me sad.

  3. I think I agree with both of you, Amanda and Ray. It is an unpleasant movie and it is like watching a train crash in slow motion, but I also think it is a deeply political movie, both the reasons mentioned by Ray (and very well put) but also more directly of the consequences of letting a society rot. Starved and alienated it will fester while those with theirs on the dry can look at it with scorn and tell themselves it is not their problem.
    And, yeah, we are a lot of people looking across the pond, wondering what will happen next week.

  4. Ohh.. thank you Diana and TS! It feels a long time since there was something that got me going..
    And, yes, I was including in my rant all the things that have lead to society rotting. tRump, Johnson, Cummings are all a consequence, not a cause.

    Amanda, Diana, and all others 'over there'.. I guess your more pressing issues are pushing (even more than usual) things foreign into the back ground.. but is news of the 'free school meals issue' getting an airing? If not, very simply.. in a stunning act of stunning ineptitude, our wonderful leaders have put a stop to free school meals for the really needy being stopped, despite the cost being insignificant (in the light of other expenditure going on). A campaign by a footballer - Marcus Rashford - has attracted a lot of public support, but the government crashes on. Our local MP, a real .. err.. cough cough.. charmer who unseated our caring and beloved Labour party member last year, has endeared himself by claiming that the poor will just swop food parcels and vouchers for drugs as a reason not to do anything.
    The flip side, is that people are starting to realise what the reality of our beloved leader is...

    And yet again, Ray manages to write an entire article without even mentioning the film we are supposed to be discussing ..

  5. It doesn't dismiss it entirely, but I feel like it is treated as though the only work of art brave enough to take this stance, and it isn't. And fair point about it being a political message. A very ugly movie to reflect a very ugly time.