The year is 1981 in Gotham City, where the rich have become richer and the poor are getting poorer. Isn’t this a story told a number of times? Joker (portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix) tells us the story of  Arthur Fleck, a troubled professional clown and wannabe stand-up comedian, who sits in front of a mirror, slowly painting his face. His quest to smile from ear to ear is never so lasted naturally unless he forces it. Joker is a story of a troubled, ignored, abused man. He is a man who is often mocked and misunderstood. He considers himself an outsider in an ever-growing city that has gone from bad to worse. He tries to overcome his laughing fit as the world shuts the door behind him. This movie is ultimately what Joker is: an origin story.

Despite an 8-minute standing ovation at the Venice film festival, Todd Phillips’ origins picture about the birth of Batman’s nemesis has become the focus of a moral backlash, with critics using words such as “toxic”, “cynical” and “irresponsible” to describe its relentlessly embittered tone. Joker does everything but gives you easy answers. It is a story of a chaotic invisible individual calling for acknowledgement.

The filmmakers have heavily drawn in equal measure from Martin Scorsese’s media satire The King of Comedy, and Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke. It has a similar worldview filled with characters drunk on self-pity and self-gratification. The main question here would then be whether this movie is about the mental, moral, emotional and physical makeup of an individual who cruises through a number of murders along his way to prove something. Are voices of isolation, abuse and self-pity being acknowledged or even addressed in the society anymore or just being heard and ignored? The feeling of empathy for Arthur Fleck musters momentum for a while but as Arthur screams around the edges of his sanity, this empathy towards him is not guaranteed.

Todd Philips (Director) has definitely thrown open a disturbing subject into popular media. Some critics have heavily criticised this movie due to the portrayal of the mass shooting and extreme violence. While some others have given this movie a standing ovation. A serious issue such as mental health is a subject that needs to be heard and addressed in every form that is possible even if it is through the story of the origin of a villain.


Photo by Niko Tavernise (Warner Bros)



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