‘JOKER’ highlights chaos and violence
Review by Jessica Guerrucci — Managing Editor
In a film focused on stereotypes surrounding mental illness, violence and capitalism, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in “Joker” pulls viewers in while highlighting controversial topics.
In the movie, “JOKER,” Arthur Fleck, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, is a mentally ill, failed comedian, who eventually goes on a killing spree. At the end of the movie, after he admits to killing three men on the subway, the city erupts in chaos, and surprisingly, the city rallies behind him. Fleck, who has a disorder that causes him to break out into uncontrollable laughter, seems to always get him into trouble.
Without having much of a background in who Joker was or his story in previous DC Comics or movies, I was intrigued by his character from the start to the end. The way the movie portrayed his mental illness, I felt, was reflective of the reality in the world today meaning it is highly misunderstood.
In the beginning, there is a scene where Fleck is making faces at a child on the bus and the mother yells at him to leave her kid alone. After this heartbreaking moment, he erupts into laughter, making the mother more angry, causing him to give her a card explaining his condition.
However, in this case, Fleck’s response he got was much kinder as the story went on. He is beaten several times for laughing, humiliated on television and ignored by the public. The public’s reactions to him show that people do not understand mental illness.
Fleck also find outs that his mother allowed his abuse as a child, contributing to his mental illness. He also suffers from delusions, like his mother Penny Fleck, and joins in on the belief that Brett Cullen’s character, Thomas Wayne who is running for mayor in Gotham City, is his father.He also imagines Zazie Beetz’s character, Sophie Dumond, who lives in Fleck’s building, is his girlfriend. These delusions seem almost realistic until we see him walk into her apartment and we can see she is visibly frightened by him and says he is in the wrong place and asks him to leave.
This mistreatment only pushes Fleck into becoming what we all have come to know as “Joker.”
The violence begins after he is working as a clown spinning a sign in front of a store and a group of boys steal his sign and beat him in an alley. This prompts one of his co-workers to give him a gun, eventually leading to him shooting and killing three boys on the subway while dressed in his clown makeup and masking his identity.
Though Fleck killed the boys simply because he is mentally ill, the world viewed it as a protest against capitalism and the rich. This leads to what I thought was the most captivating scene of the movie, where Joker stands on a police car after being freed by protestors, and is cheered on by the people around his as the city of Gotham erupts into chaos around him.
Regardless of the fact that Joker admitted to killing the three boys on the subway on the Murray Franklin show and killing Robert De Niro’s character on his show, he finally gets the praise he thought he deserved — leading people to believe violence is glorified.
However, as Joker stood on the top of the car and used his own blood to paint his clown smile onto his face, it became clear to me that violence and chaos is the very essence of this character.
Violence is what makes Joker feel alive and makes him captivating. In a society that has consistently oppressed him, unfortunately, it is what made him thrive.
While I understand worries that his character will inspire violence amongst others, his story, and the factors that led up to him becoming “Joker” are critical to understanding why violence occurs in the first place and how our own actions influence others.