Joker is a masterpiece.
I didn’t know what expect from the previews or the warnings issued the Department of Defense (of all agencies) that incels might use screenings of the film as an opportunity to shoot up a theater as one such unhinged freak did previously at a screening of The Dark Knight. As it happens, there’s a sports shop at the end of the mall opposite of the theater that sells the AK and AR style assault rifles and ammo but there are plenty of other things to shoot in my neck of the woods (literally) so I wasn’t too worried.
The film ended up being a breath of fresh air from start to finish. No spandex. No CGI. No product placement or branding bullshit, unmolested by studio executives or focus groups — which is amazing in and of itself. Just great shots at real locations, brilliantly written and performed.
Joker is the antithesis forgettable, Skittle-vomit, superhero flicks I’ve been totally burned out on. Appropriate, given that it tells the story of an anti-hero and not a superhero. In fact, rather than losing everything that typically kicks off the hero’s journey, Joker begins at the bottom with a beaten-down, impoverished, mentally ill man, Arthur, looking for belonging and seeking to define himself in and in spite of a world that shits on him when it notices him at all. Strangers attack him, family denies him, friends betray him, public services fail him and his heroes humiliate him. He wants to do good, to make people smile. He tries to be that. He perseveres against each setback as they compound and almost seem to conspire against his steadfast goal of becoming a stand-up comedian. But it isn’t enough. He loses to become something else instead.
I found Joaquin Phoenix’s performance of Arthur very relatable, easy to empathize with. Through him, I could feel Arthur’s anguish, embarrassment and exhilaration. Every one of his victims is someone who’s hurt him and has more power or means to have done so. He becomes a symbol of empowerment, punching up against those punching down. And it’s delicious! The movie ends with Joker embracing the chaos that’s embraced him and coming into his own. I left the theater feeling great for a pleasant change.