A Memorable Joke
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Francis Conroy
From Cesar Romero to Heath Ledger and Mark Hamill, there have been a wide range of memorable actors who have brought the Clown Prince of Crime to life with their own unique slant on the character. Joaquin Phoenix brings a unique new take in Joker.
Joker is an origin story that shows us the life of Arthur Fleck, a loner with a neurological disorder that makes him laugh uncontrollably at times of stress. Working in a dead end job as a children’s clown and living at home with his mother, his already fragile world begins to unravel, and we see his transformation into the iconic villain.
There is another turn, however, as it is quickly revealed that Arthur is an unreliable narrator. Fans and reviewers have already put forward a wide range of potential theories about what in the film is real and where the character’s manipulations begin. In truth, half the fun is trying to piece together the puzzle director Todd Phillips has given us. The potential implications for how the Joker really became who he is, and his connection to Batman, are hinted at, but this is not the definitive explanation. Instead, Joker is a potential origin story, an interpretation of the character that has plausibility, and a comment on the nature of hoarding wealth. In all of this, however, the Joker is not to be trusted.
Visually, the film is quite amazing, with some great uses of colour and camera work that brings out Gotham’s dark underbelly in a way that is constantly arresting. The close up shots on Arthur’s face help bring out Phoenix’s unique range and create a constant sense of claustrophobia.
Joker is, obviously, a dark film. Themes of abuse are discussed and there is some graphic violence. Despite being a comic book film linked to superheroes, it is not suitable for children. While some critics have contended that the film is “dangerous” there is another possible reading. Joker demonstrates what happens to someone in a world where unconstrained wealth controls the state and an uncaring society turns its back on the marginalised entirely. Arthur has no one who genuinely cares for or connects with him. For the church, this film should serve as a reminder of our role and what happens when we don’t fulfill it.
Joker is currently playing in cinemas.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor
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