Mental illness is a huge issue in our world today. One of the biggest challenges is trying to help those in need. Some individuals feel like they are outcasts and have no part in today’s society. It is usually the mentally ill who are ignored and figuratively “walked over” in life. Very few of us want to deal with an unstable person. Often it is out of fear, that very people few are willing to help. Sometimes the unstable person will snap and many innocent lives will be lost due to a mass shooting, for example. It is a sad and scary time where people are looking for answers in their lives and nobody has an answer for them.
In the latest DC movie directed by Todd Phillips, “Joker,” Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck. Fleck is an aspiring comedian who is just simply looking for acceptance in society. Nobody gives him any respect and he is largely ignored. He is ignored by his social worker, ignored by his meager comedic audience, and basically ignored by pretty much everyone in his whole world. Desperate for some attention and merit to his life, Fleck’s life takes a downward spiral as he learns the truth about his past and why his whole life, up until this point, was a lie. The Joker character and persona is a product of abandonment, revenge, and a hate for society that has turned its back on Fleck. Many times during the film, you are being told to smile, but the reality of it is that Joker’s world is indeed sad and you really end up feeling badly for the guy by the end of the film. Not to validate the heinous things he does in the movie, but when you realize how much the world can defecate on a man, you do start to feel sorry for the guy.
Joaquin Phoenix absolutely smokes the role as Arthur Fleck. It is safe to say that Phoenix will be cleaning up come awards season. His performance is so real, the entire movie gives you an unnerving feeling from start to finish. You really feel like you are in the presence of a mentally disturbed individual and it can be haunting at times.
The movie is rated “R” for good reason. Obviously, the disturbing performance plays a huge part in it, but towards the end of the movie it gets very violent and very bloody. Definitely not one to take your kids to see!
Another aspect of “Joker” that really nailed it was the scenery. It portrayed the fictional city of Gotham as the dark, dirty, and scary place that it has always been portrayed. With trash, crime, and graffiti everywhere, it is clear that Gotham has a major problem and it clearly lacks the resources to help its citizens. In “Joker,” Gotham cuts funding for social work and this ends up being a factor in Fleck snapping. It was sad to see, but it is an unfortunate reality that can happen to any city. After my two hour trip to Gotham, I feel as if I need to take another shower because it felt so real and dirty.
“Joker” is two hours long and I must admit that the movie is a little slow to start out of the gate, but once you are fully immersed, you can’t take your eyes off of it. Aside from Phoenix’s performance, Robert De Niro plays Murray Franklin and does a great job in the few scenes in which he appears. Franklin is a late night talk show host and basically sets Fleck up for embarrassment on national television using him as a joke, unbeknownst to Fleck.
If you can handle a deeply disturbing movie about mental illness, “Joker” is an absolute must see. It is loud, mesmerizing, and it will have you walking out of the theater at the end a little shaken up. It may even stick with you for a few days after you see it. “Joker” absolutely lived up to my expectations and I do not think it would disappoint anyone who is willing to give it a shot.