Ooh goody another opinion about Joker, just what you wanted. I will keep it short, promise.
Errrr so yeah, I don’t get the feeling that any one who actually watches Joker is going to get the urge to go forth and shoot people because of it, it is not that sort of movie.
Joaquin Phoenix gives a haunting performance that will score him an Oscar nomination, but the truth is no one wants to be this guy. The pre-Joker Arthur Fleck does not have the appeal of Jack Nicholson’s flippant charmer; nor Heath Ledger’s beautifully insane and insanely beautiful twisted genius; nor Cameron Monaghan’s young, irreverent criminal mastermind and unstoppable puppeteer. Even Jared Leto’s disappointing, unhinged gangster take on the Joker is essentially cooler, prettier, more imitation tempting than this.
Nor is the violence glorified. Fleck is given a gun that initially he doesn’t want. The murders he commits are spur of the moment, even his last act of violence live on TV – which certainly appears pre-meditated since he brought a gun with him – isn’t what he originally intended. The killings are quick, brutal and not thought out. Fleck doesn’t appear entranced by them, the audience isn’t either, you just want to move onto the next scene.
Don’t misunderstand, this is a great piece of work (aside from a few jarring moments where nods to the Gotham story are included that detract from the realistic nature of the film, but they’re so quick you don’t really notice them). The exploration of a mentally ill, poverty stricken, lonely man living with the responsibility of caring for a decrepit parent in a society that doesn’t care, is masterful. It provides a realistic insight into how a compassionate man with small, attainable dreams becomes a warped, unrepentant murderer.
The thing is though, save for one dance scene down a flight of steps, there’s nothing you want to copy from this character. Joaquin Phoenix perfectly plays the person that you ignore because their mental health makes you feel guilty and uncomfortable. He’s not the person you want to be, he’s the person who makes you count your blessings that you your life is not as bad as his. The character of Arthur Fleck is malnourished and fragile, he’s middle aged and unattractive. The normally handsome Phoenix transforms for the role, sporting chewed up nails, deep nicotine stained fingers, broken yellow teeth, lank, greasy hair, looking generally grubby like he needs a really good wash. We see much of him in his underwear in his apartment, giving us the impression of lounging in his own grime. You can virtually smell the staleness of the apartment; the echoes of cheap, bland meals; and garbage building up in the streets.
It’s not until the very end of the film that Fleck demonstrates any of the bravado we associate with the Joker. Even then at the conclusion when Arthur Fleck is first viewed as an anti-hero idol, he’s still the person that makes you decide to move to a different carriage on the train.
People watching this film are unlikely to feel their blood pumping. If anything inspires a mass shooting it’ll be all the news stories running at the moment causing panic that it could happen.
Last note. Interestingly enough the film’s other familiar characters – Thomas, Martha and Bruce Wayne, and Alfred – aren’t remotely appealing either. Thomas Wayne instead of being a benevolent, good man, who also happens to be a successful titan of industry, is the epitome of privilege and obsequious wealth, a pompous, uncaring politician. Martha, fleetingly reduced to a trophy wife. Alfred, brusque, abrupt, hostile. And little Bruce, so quiet and unresponsive, a lonely little sociopath in the making.