Joker (2019)


Joker is an original, stand-alone story that we haven’t seen on the big screen before. At its center is Arthur Flack, a lonely man trying to find his way and his happiness in a hostile Gotham. Artur works as a clown during the day, while his dream is to become a respected stand-up comedian, but life does not pamper him and it turns out that somehow he is always the subject of jokes. Caught between rejection, cruelty, hopelessness and apathy, Arthur makes a drastic move that will escalate into a chain reaction of unexpected events…

From the very title, comics and other films, we know who Artur Fleck is and what he will become, and that does not diminish the experience of following his transformation. Arthur has recently been discharged from a psychiatric institution, he has to report to a social worker who does not do her job very well and lives in a dilapidated building, in a modest apartment where he takes care of his mother Penny (Frances Conroy). She fantasizes about meeting talk show host Mario (Robert De Niro) and has a strange medical disorder that causes her to laugh uncontrollably when stressed. As the film progresses, his life goes from bad to worse, until the turning point when he gains confidence and realizes that he is finally alive.

Director Todd Phillips (Todd Phillips) became famous with the Hangover series and certainly does not seem like the first choice for shooting a film that deals with a more serious topic, whose message is also aimed at the entertainment industry. It is safe to say that Joker is a kind of link between a serious film and a film as a means of light entertainment, because this film will be seen by viewers from both groups. My opinion is that the authors have consciously made an almost anti-superhero movie, and miraculously, those who love the genre have nothing against it, on the contrary. Phillips and screenwriter Scott Silver (Scott Silver) have removed everything that is usual in a film based on a comic book, so there are no threats that destroy the world or a hero waiting somewhere to save that same world. This move was quite risky, but it was realized very well.

It’s a no-brainer that Scorsese’s Taxi Driver character Travis Bickle was the inspiration for the anarchic Joker, his transformation almost identical to Travis’s, who went from reclusive taxi driver to gun-wielding punk. Both are unstable characters, who were gradually driven to madness by the rejection of society. The hero of Scorsese’s masterpiece suffered from Vietnam syndrome, while Arthur was battered by a combination of ridicule and abuse. The only difference may be that Travis relatively retains our sympathy even after his actions, while Arthur’s final actions, although they are a logical consequence of his situation, cannot really find wider support from the audience.

Phillips’ Joker is human-focused, so it can be said that it is thematically much closer to Nolan’s trilogy than the other works of the DC universe, in which the character of the Joker was mostly someone whose primary purpose was to oppose Batman. He is not here, so here the Joker is not a superhero, but he still retains the qualities of an anarchist, who with his humanity reminded me of Tyler Darden from the movie Fight Club – both call for chaos, opposition to the authorities and the rich, and the final product is a city on fire. I liked that the authors subtly introduced certain events from the comics, such as the character of the boy Bruce Wayne, who here is just a rich kid who lives in a magnificent castle, so there are chances that one day there will be a sequel. The only thing that would confuse me then is the timeline, because Joker would be a blanket when he faced Batman at full strength, but that doesn’t matter now.

The Joker has no hero at all. The story is built around the growing anger of a deranged person, whom life slaps as it comes, and next to him, a bigger picture breaks through to the surface of the bitter citizens of Gotham, who are fed up with the thieves in the ruling group. Useless public servants are spending taxpayers’ money on who knows what, and inefficient police officers are not promising to bring peace. Unexpectedly, Arthur’s move becomes both an inspiration and a means of gathering people, the clown becomes a symbol of rebellion, and finally someone starts to notice him.

The plot of the film is set in the eighties in an imaginary city, but there is a clear parallel with modern society, which has been collectively affected by certain psychoses, so more and more individuals turn to violence. The collective madness is further enhanced by apathy and ubiquitous media sensationalism. It’s set in comic book mythology, but the authors raise broad issues like mental health and economic insecurity. Some critics complain that these questions are there purely to recognize them enough to make Joker more than a movie based on the comics and that the connections to the real world are a bit shallow.