Directed by – Todd Phillips
Written by – Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
Set in the 1980s in the fictional city of Gotham, Joker is a distressing tale of a dark, flawed and mentally ill clown, Arthur Fleck. The film doesn’t give its viewers any time to settle in. It is gripping, cruel and intense right from the very first scene.
Often, we talk about mental illness and how grave it can be. Arthur Fleck, suffers from a rare condition that causes uncontrolled laughter when he is sad, scared or simply nervous. He is bullied mercilessly and ill-treated by society. However, when we see this man at home, living with his ailing mother Penny Fleck (Frances Conroy), he is caring and loving. Fighting his inner battles, Arthur’s only ambition is to be a stand-up comedian.
When I see Arthur, I see a man who is constantly taking efforts to reach a better place in life. Be it seeking medical help and speaking to his caseworker, Sharon Washington to penning down jokes in his journal that he wishes to use someday in one of his stand-up acts. The dialogues are so sharp that you feel the pain deep within. What Arthur feels and notes in his journal is equally hurtful.
‘I hope my death makes more cents than my life’
‘I just don’t want to feel so bad anymore’
Somewhere, I felt it’s a plea to the society from a person who is mentally ill to accept him and help him overcome it. But what he gets is nothing but hatred. The moment the city stops his medical care is when Arthur can’t hold himself together any longer.
Joker is anything but funny. His demeanour changes when in a fit of rage, he commits a crime. From a timid and weak man, he turns to a dangerous one. After this, we know that Arthur has reached a place of no return and a series of bloodshed is sure to follow.
We can’t justify Arthur’s action but also can’t deny the fact that society fails him at every step. Words will fall short to explain how phenomenal Joaquin Phoenix is. Right from the fragile frame that has his bones sticking out, his eyes that look sad and his constant struggle to pull himself together in the sight of others, we know that Arthur is at a frightening place.
Arthur’s transition from a sufferer to a villain is smooth. His every move is so well crafted that you don’t feel even the slightest of jerk through his transition. Robert De Niro plays a famous TV personality, Murray Franklin, the only person who brings a smile on Arthur’s face. Joker also depicts a society that makes a laughing stock out of an already damaged person. Every time you see Arthur committing a gruesome crime you don’t want anyone to kill him but just make him stop.
Joker lingers on your mind, long after you are done watching it. It questions the human nature and how we, as a society are capable of making this world a better or a worst place.