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Joker Has A Message For You

If you, like me, have been totally underwhelmed by most of the DC Extended Universe, there’s good news. Joker doesn’t have to fit inside of it, meaning that Joker has the potential to actually be good!

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a party clown and aspiring comedian with a medical condition that causes inappropriate laughter. After getting attacked while working his clown job, a coworker gives him a gun for protection. Things rapidly spiral downward in Arthur’s already bleak life, and the gun he was given provides him with a violent means of catharsis.

Joker is a message film. Of that, I have no doubt. I’m just not sure what the message is. Maybe it’s all of them? The mental health and medication services that Arthur was receiving were defunded. Is this about the perils of our woefully inadequate public services? Arthur was bullied relentlessly for being different. Is this an anti-bullying message? We can also throw in social inequality, lack of male role models and gun violence into the mix. The problem is that message was muddy. I didn’t walk away knowing what I was supposed to feel watching the film.

There’s no hero in Joker. It’s a character study. It’s social commentary. It’s an origin story. It bears no resemblance to the flashy comic book films raking in billions at the box office. It does, however, give you a deep dive into the motivations that might lie in the hearts of bad guys in those films.

Phoenix acts his ass off in Joker, to the point that you want to say “dude, are you OK?” To the actor, not the character. You get so deep into Aruthur’s day to day life that you can almost start to root for him. But then the violence pulls you back. At least the violence should pull you back. If you end up thinking his actions were justified those muddy messages failed and you probably missed the point. At least what I’m assuming was the point. We should take care of our mentally ill and try to be kind to everyone, or they may end up shooting us? Did I get that right? See, I told you the messages were muddy. I’m just pretty sure the message isn’t “see, he was totally justified.” At least I hope it wasn’t.

For all of my back and forth about the confusing messages, Joker is a good movie. It’s one that will definitely stay in your head for a few days and make you think. I mostly thought about how it could have been better. If they had gotten their messaging right? It would have been great.

About Joker

Director Todd Phillips “Joker” centers around the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone fictional story not seen before on the big screen. Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is indelibly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society. A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night…but finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study.

As The Bunny Hops®