Joker. It is an extraordinary film, clever, well made, beautifully acted and I feel destined to become a classic.
A rare five-star rating from me, recommended for any lover of psychological thrillers, crime film noir, psychological horror and very (very) black comedy.
The well named Joker film is exactly that, a Joke on the modern world a joke on our post joke society.
The film starring Joaquin Phoenix plays with the idea that this film is the origin story of the DC supervillain “The Joker” but it is not. “Joker” of the title is both the mentally deranged lead character and the director/ writer of the film Todd Phillips.
Everything in this film is a joke.
Let us begin with when the film is set. Multiple clues tell us this film is set in 1981, but it cannot possibly be. Firstly the Energizer bunny is on TV which places us in 1988 at the earliest, secondly Arthur as a clown uses an advertising pointer and juggles and spins it, a gimmick that was not popularized until the early 2000s. The cinema from which the Wayne’s emerge is showing both Blowout and Zorro the Gay Blade on a double bill, this never happened and the only time the two films appeared together was in an episode of Siskel and Ebert’s Sneak Previews in July of 1981.
Finally and most obvious of all is how did someone film Arthur’s act at the comedy club in 1981? There are obviously no cameras, a 1981 video camera was huge and someone using one in a club back then would if allowed at all, have created quite a stir, Arthur would certainly have seen it. The footage shown on Murray Franklin’s show was obviously taken with a smart phone did not appear till 1999.
So the film is at the earliest taking place in the early 2000, possibly as late at 2016 since Arthur uses the name Arthur Fleck before declaring himself Joker, and discovering eve he does not know his real name. What is significant about the name Arthur Fleck in relation to the Joker? He is Mr. A Fleck, Ben Affleck was in 2016 current Batman.
Next where is the film set?
Gotham city, but not any Gotham we have ever seen, this one looks remarkably like New York, in fact it is New York the New York Washington Irving dubbed Gotham City in 1807 as a joke as the original Gotham was a town populated by idiot in folk tales of Nottinghamshire England the name meaning literally Home of Goat head’s and which was adopted by Kane and Finger when they created Batman in so as not to offend actual New Yorkers. Arkham Hospital (not asylum note) is named for the recurring town of Monsters in H.P. Lovecraft’s stories of cosmic horror.
So who is Arthur Fleck?
Frankly we do not know, he is a lost man, adopted, does not know who he is, does not even know his own real name. His mother calls him Happy or Hap probably as a reference to Happy Loman in the Arthur Miller Play “Death of a salesman”. He is a lost boy, abused and ill, damaged and longing for a fairy tale ending where he will grow up to be beloved and admired.
So what is going on?
I believe we are seeing the world through the eyes of this man who calls himself Arthur Fleck, a man trapped in the world of his own childhood as an abused child circa 1991, where he believes that he is the carer of his “ill” mother who cannot care for him.
He lives in a mix of memory and fantasy, where he is secretly the son of Thomas Wayne from the Batman comics and films, a man who will one day come and take him home to Wayne manor (or Wayne hall which is as near as he can get to it in his mental state) and where his Mother Penny(worth) will once again run the household.
Who the man he sees as Thomas Wayne in his delusion is debatable, but he is certainly by his behavior NOT the actual Thomas Wayne of fiction as this man is a brute, unfair and certainly not the philanthropist of the comics. His other Father figure is Murray Franklin the always reliable man on the TV, the nice guy, the funny man.
When Arthur snaps and has his “bad day” and finally stands up for himself he kills three bullies on the train, three men he sees as harassing a woman, mocking his affliction, Flaunting their wealth being loud obnoxious pillars of society.
Even then it is uncertain if it really happens the way we see, for a start Arthur fires seven shots from a six shooter, in the manner of the revenge fantasy he shoots one in the testicles, one in the ass and one in the head, then pursues the limping buttock shot guy and kills him again on a suspiciously empty station. No one on the train hears the shots, no one calls the police or pulls the emergency chord, no one notices.
But in his head Arthur has killed them, in the bathroom where he takes shelter he performs the Dying swan as his “Ugly Duckling” become the “very fine swan indeed” of Anderson’s story and Arthur realizes he is never every going to be Batman, but he can be the Joker or at least A Joker.
The great big Joke being if he cannot be famous for his life he will be famous for his death, but things do not work out that way for him. In the end when he is in Arkham and news has come to him that “Thomas” is dead, the Joke his doctor cannot get is that he believes he Joker has created his own Batman (Just like in the Keaton movie) and that he “Joker” is the villain of his story not it’s hero and that is just fine.
The film ending with him leading the staff on a “merry chase” for now.
Joker is a joke on its own audience, on the pretentious world of self appointed SJWs who feel it is their duty to rally the outrage mob and define in the name of freedom what can and cannot be funny, by censoring everything.
A great film.
Well I enjoyed it. -Len Hazell, United Kingdom