Is it just me, or does pop culture have a tendency to cycle through the things that scare us? For a while we were getting vampires thanks to The Vampire Diaries and the Twilight saga (if you can call those sparkly abominations vampires). We got a lot of zombies for a bit with The Walking Dead (is that even still on?) and movies like World War Z.
Now we’re dealing with killer clowns.
Warner Bros. is killing it when it comes to these demons in human form. Two It movies based on Stephen King’s classic novel have broken box office records in the horror genre. And only a few weeks after It: Chapter Two was released, Joker hit cinemas, raking in tons more cash for the studio.
If you head to the theater expecting Joker to be anything like what you’ve come to expect from a movie based on a comic book character, you’re either going to be pleasantly surprised or terribly disappointed.
I’m going to try and talk about the movie without giving away spoilers, but I’m not sure I can really talk about the nature of the movie without giving away spoilers. So… potentially… SPOILER WARNING.
Joker follows Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a man with a number of mental health issues, including a condition that causes him to laugh at inappropriate times. This laughter does not reflect his emotions at the time… he just can’t help himself.
Arthur lives with and takes care of his mother, who herself is in declining health and has her own psychological issues, as well. He ekes out a living as a clown that is hired out to work various events in Gotham City and is often treated horribly. We see him mocked and beaten more than once as the film progresses.
Phoenix does a fantastic job portraying the disturbed Arthur Fleck while the film itself handles the state of mental health in the early 1980s extremely well. Due to circumstances beyond Arthur’s control, we watch as he spins further and further out of control and into madness. The journey is brilliant but disturbing.
Joker is not a comic book movie that you’ll want to sit and watch over and over again. I mean… unless you’re keen on picking up every little nuance that contributes to Arthur’s overall mental health. And I wouldn’t fault you for it. Because a part of the beauty of this film is that you walk away questioning, what parts of the story were real and what parts were all in Arthur’s head?
It’s not the kind of movie I’m gonna want to watch over and over again. I’ve got a running list of movies that I think are great, but I just don’t want to sit through them more than once: 12 Years a Slave, The Passion of the Christ, Sophie’s Choice… movies like that. Joker left me with a lot of questions regarding what really happened in the story. And, despite my opinion that it was brilliantly made and acted throughout, it left me feeling fairly disturbed, as well.