By: Nastassja Posso
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y.- Todd Phillips’ “Joker” has undeniably been one of the most trending topics on all social media platforms since it premiered on Oct. 4, 2019. It is the first live-action theatrical Batman film to receive an R-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. Due to its violent and disturbing content, there is a wide audience with a varying opinions, beginning at the age of 16.
“Joker” is an origin story set in 1981 based on DC Comics characters, then produced by the Warner Bros. The film was directed and co-written by Todd Phillips with Scott Silver. Although Phillips and Silver did not look at specific comics for inspiration, the graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) was set the premise for the film.
The film forced critics and viewers to be polarized because of its dark tone, portrayal of mental illness and the handling of violence throughout the movie.
Needless to say how controversial the movie has been, no one can deny Joaquin Phoenix’s phenomenal job in portraying The Joker. Phoenix’s performance was praised by film critics and audiences from all over.
The movie is based on Arthur Fleck, the protagonist that is a failed stand-up comedian who becomes a clown involved in crime and chaos in Gotham City. The best way to describe Arthur is an outsider trying to fit in; a clown in the world of comedy. What sets him apart from the rest of the clowns is his inability to relate to the rest of society with his dark humor. He also struggles from many mental illnesses, including Pseudobulbar affect (PBA), which causes him to laugh uncontrollably at random times.
He takes care of his mother- Penny Fleck, and through discovering more about his mental illness as well as his mother’s, he learns about his past. Throughout his whole life he was basically mislead and taught to always have a smile on his face and pretend everything was alright and that he was happy. Which is why he wanted to be a clown, because clowns always have a smile on their faces. He calls himself The “Joker,” because his job or purpose as a clown is to tell jokes. Or as it is portrayed in the movie, an act where he jokes about his own life and everything that’s deep and dark within it.
After he was brutally beaten in one scene, has his medication cut off and is publicly humiliated by the comedian he idolizes; he finally realizes and is exposed to the rejection, negativity and bullying he receives from society. This leads to his downward spiral that brings his alter ego “Joker” to the public. In turn, this is what makes him the villain that he is known to be in the original story.
Overall, the movie was very interesting and well made. It is the type of film that can definitely be left to many interpretations-both positive and negative. It is not an easy film to watch, especially at certain points because of a couple distressing moments. Nonetheless, it is a film that will have you thinking for a while and will open a new perspective to understanding what the life of a person suffering from extreme mental illnesses could be like.
If you feel that dark scenes and intense topics might trigger you, this might not be the right film to watch alone, but it is definitely worth the watch to appreciate some incredible acting and great elements of movie production.
TRIGGER WARNING: There are five scenes that are considered disturbing/gruesome by many.