What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash?” Arthur Fleck (Joker)
Arthur Fleck lives with his mother, Penny, in a dark and grimy Gotham city. Both Arthur and Gotham itself can be described as collapsing on the verge of chaos. The city is suffering garbage strikes while the streets are crawling with mutant rats. The super poor are angry at the super rich and crime is out of control.
Arthur is a skeletal and sickly man working as clown for hire, twirling signs on busy streets and dancing for ill children. His dream is to become a stand up comedian and make people laugh, unfortunately for Arthur he has no idea what is considered funny. Struggling to fit in with his fellow clowns, we are shown Arthur’s naivety after he is beaten up by a group of teenagers and subsequently given a gun by one of his co workers.
The support he is receiving for his mental health is cut and his medication starts to run out. From this point we witness Arthur descend further into the throes of madness. Enraged, neglected, bullied, and abused – Arthur Fleck becomes the Joker while the streets of Gotham spiral into anarchy.
The opening scene for this movie really moved me. We see a broken man applying his clown make up, tears staining his freshly made up face while trying to force himself to smile. A true reminder that the joker isn’t a villain with powers, but a heartbroken lonely man.
The casting for this movie was just incredible. Before I talk about the the main man I want to talk briefly about some of the other characters. Arthur’s mother, Penny Fleck, was quietly devastating. Her character was believably portrayed by the fantastic Frances Conroy. The scene between mother and son were some of my favourite.
Arthur’s neighbour, Sophie, played by Zazie Beetz was a fresh relief from the palpable tension we experience throughout this movie and really brings some humanity to Arthur during their scenes together.
Of course I have to mention Robert Di Nero who plays tv host Murray Franklin. Not my favourite character but great nonetheless.
And then we have Joaquin Phoenix. Well, what can I say? Amazing! He really made this character his own. The laugh, the pain, the torture, his performance was beautifully tragic and genuinely heart wrenching. Joaquin inhabited the character completely leaving me with a whole range of emotions. His iteration and portrayal of Arthur is truly oscar worthy.
One of my favourite things about this movie was how it didn’t need to go into great detail to explain anything, subtlety worked wonders. The scene in Arkham asylum where we saw just snippets of Arthur’s childhood made a huge impact. It was perfect.
I should also mention that the cinematography is beautiful, absolutely stunning!
This movie has had a bit of bad press about the violence. While it is a violent film, I’ve seen far worse. For me it was a subtle nod toward the world we live in today. It really highlights how, as a society, we are consistently failing to offer the right assistance to those in greatest need of support.
Go into this movie with an open mind. Forget the Jokers of the past and be prepared to meet this one only briefly, this is a story about Arthur Fleck.