With Todd Phillips’ JOKER (2019) One of the most anticipated and at the same time most controversial films of the 2019 cinema year begins and seemingly constantly confronts you with the question of whether you can sympathize with a nihilistic murderer. Is he really doing that? We reveal this in our review.
That’s Life! That’s What all the People Say…
The plot summary
Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) lives alone with his sick mother in a dirty apartment in the middle of seething Gotham. He takes over half a dozen medications himself and suffers from a neurological disorder that makes it impossible for him to laugh. But Arthur desperately tries to find his way in this broken society. Longing to get luck on his side, he tries his hand at becoming a stand-up comedian. But he quickly finds out that every joke always seems to be at his own expense. Arthur soon finds himself caught in a downward spiral of indifference and cruelty and ultimately betrayal – he makes one bad decision after another, leading to a disastrous chain reaction of escalating events.
Joker Movie Meaning & ending
When films are accompanied by some kind of hype before they are released in cinemas, it rarely has a positive impact. Ultimately, the risk of being disappointed increases the higher your expectations are. And since Todd Philips’ “Joker” was not only frenetically celebrated after its premiere at the Venice Film Festival (where it subsequently also won the “Golden Lion” for best film), but also condemned, the villain drama quickly fell into place The scandal suggested that “Joker” supported male fantasies of violence and feigned understanding for the origins of toxic masculinity. If you go to the cinema, you can hardly do so with a clear head. You either expect the big revelation or the calculated shock. Now “Joker” has actually become both; However, not in the way you would expect with this combination. Because Phillips (“War Dogs”) shocks, but not with violence or provocation. Rather, he shocks with class and a close look at the status quo of our society. Because as paradoxical as that may sound for a film called “Joker,” which is firmly rooted in the DC universe – more on that later – Phillips’ thriller drama ultimately isn’t a film about the Joker at all, but rather an analysis of that very society , which makes it possible for figures like the Joker to exist in the first place. And with this realization, which pushes the viewer into a situation of helplessness, Phillips’ mammoth two-hour work intoxicates you until the bitter end.
Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenx) is looking for his place in society.
Although the omnipresent criticism of “Joker” can be ignored on the one hand, because the script by Todd Phillips and Scott Silver (“The Fighter”) distances itself enough from the main character in the crucial moments so as not to create false sympathy for her hypocritical, the film is undeniably a provocative dance on the razor’s edge. Particularly in the opening phase, “Joker” portrays its titular (anti-)hero as a victim of circumstances: beaten up, humiliated and plagued by illness, neurological disorders and a difficult past, the first few minutes of the film leave no doubt that this inconspicuous Arthur Fleck is a pretty poor sausage. And yet the script casts doubts early enough about things that could put the man in a position of sole victim: During a therapy session, for example, Fleck makes it clear that he is constantly haunted by negative thoughts, completely independent of the external circumstances. Due to the gradual fusion of reality and delusion (perceived from Arthur’s perspective), even things that are clearly rooted in the real world, such as a kind of business card with which Arthur points out his neurological laughter disorder to bystanders, suddenly appear like fake reasons. yes, maybe even lies or imagination. How much of Arthur’s state of mind is really the result of abuse and violence and when he is simply pretending that he can’t do anything about his situation gradually becomes more and more unclear. And at the latest when Arthur Fleck receives a weapon, Phillips finally absolves him of his role as a victim and turns him into a potential perpetrator who makes his own decisions about whether to use violence. Anyone who feels hooked on this will probably also find the trigger in ambiguous song lyrics or any other form of entertainment – because just like guns don’t kill people, pop culture excesses can only be indirect triggers at best.
If one wants to use “Joker” to ask something like a question of guilt, the answer will primarily relate to society itself. But those responsible don’t make it that easy for us, because they permeate the thriller drama with a devastating ambivalence that only allows one conclusion: Arthur and Gotham, which is characterized by injustice and violence, depend on each other. Without the seething, hate-soaked environment in which there is as little room for individualism as there is for the sick and weak, a character like the Joker could not develop at all. At the same time, people like him contribute to Gotham becoming increasingly brutal until anarchy finally forces its way into the collective minds. When overwhelmed, people give up (for example when the psychotherapist herself doesn’t know what to do and simply dismisses Arthur from the treatment instead of committing to further therapy), looks the other way when he is mistreated – and, above all, always clings to the system that will sort it out somehow. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that sooner or later someone will have to bring this system down. And so “Joker” shows us not the rise of a villain, but the fall of a society.
Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) invites Arthur to his show.
The path there is paved with disturbing images of violence. Sometimes it is directed against the main character; she is humiliated and mistreated. Then again it comes from Arthur himself, when he hits his opponents in brutal close-ups or shoots in cold blood (the FSK rating from 16 is definitely appropriate!). But above all, the omnipresent cold is oppressive; In Gotham, nobody stands up for nobody. Everyone is on their own. Only common enemies ensure short-term cohesion – or if you can briefly agree that there is someone who is even weaker than you. Late, congenially embodied by Robert De Niro (“Joy – Everything Except Ordinary”) -Night show host Murray Franklin delivers ostensibly harmless entertainment in his nightly show, but he only really inspires his audience when they can present him with a common joke. Even in Gotham’s neighborhood, the pig is regularly driven through the village. The Wayne family also lives in this very village, whose head Thomas Wayne, a rich businessman, acts as an object of hatred for all outcasts of Gotham society. Phillips doesn’t spend much time on the background of the “Batman Family” (even if he could have been a little more reserved with individual scenic references to well-known comic moments). But how cleverly the script chooses the obvious solution of embedding Thomas Wayne, who is already well known in the DC universe, into the story makes “Joker” not only a devastating drama, but also an unconventional comic film due to the lack of a classic origin story benefits from a lot of freedom around the Joker.
Joaquin Phoenix, who, after “Her”, “The Master” and “Walk the Line”, delivers another acting performance that makes him immortal, benefits primarily from the complexity of his character. He sums up the ambivalence in Fleck’s character excellently, at the same time acting as a beaten dog with the greatest possible vulnerability and visibly suppressing the violent fantasies bubbling within him. Even in intimate moments with his loving neighbor Sophie ( “Deadpool 2” star Zazie Beetz in an adorable supporting role), Arthur’s inner struggle with himself is always expressed; crowned by the moments of desperate laughter in which Phoenix’s eyes are full of pain and at the same moment his face brutally contorts into convulsed laughter. Looking at Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck also means looking into dark abysses from which you don’t know if and when they will look back at you. So much disturbing fascination for a screen character is sometimes painful. But it is necessary to underpin the actual intention of the social study. This is dressed in beguilingly beautiful images by cameraman Lawrence Sher (“Godzilla II: King of the Monsters”) , who turns every single second of “Joker” into an event. Dressed in a fascinatingly disgusting green-brown filter, Sher plays with distances and super close-ups, giving us the feeling of being very close to the Joker, of knowing his needs and of having finally understood him. Only to place him in the next moment somewhere far away in the alleys of Gotham, on a staircase or under a dark bridge, where every other person would be lost and Arthur Fleck still remains the central focus thanks to his presence. And if composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (“Sicario 2”) doesn’t exactly bring back memories of “Arrival” with her booming score , evergreens like Jimmy Durante’s “Smile” or Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” remind us once again of the bitter cynicism behind it Sad clown motif. What a time to be alive!
Conclusion: Put on a smile – “Joker” is a masterpiece! Todd Phillips mixes directorial meticulousness with narrative anarchy and delivers not only an inspiring Joaquin Phoenix in the role of Joker, but also a view of society that leaves you sad, angry and, above all, speechless.
“Joker” can be seen in USA cinemas nationwide from October 10th.