‘Why do I sympathize with someone who’s clearly fucked up?’, I found asking myself throughout the film’s 2+ hour runtime. Even with the sheer brutality he imposes on the people who’ve wronged him, it’s hard not to feel bad for Arthur Fleck a.k.a the Joker.
Simply put, Joaquin Phoenix’s character is a loser of the highest caliber. The guy gets beat up by society physically, mentally, emotionally on the daily, until one day, he simply decides he’s had enough.
How he chooses to stand up for himself, however, is what molds him into a figure which leaves you torn between pity and revulsion.
Should he just endure the injustice, call it ‘resiliency’ and #TrustTheProcess, even when it’s clear that the system doesn’t give a damn about him? Or does he invoke unflinching violence to make a statement, but end up losing his humanity – and a city’s sanity – in the process?
If you even have the slightest idea of who the ‘Joker’ is, you would know which path he chooses. And after the end credits roll, you’re left wondering if you should be happy for the mistreated Arthur finally getting his due, or repulsed for the methods he takes to achieve it.
‘Joker’, ultimately, is a character study about someone who just so happened to carry the title of Batman’s arch-villain.
Yes, he has the clown makeup and creepy laugh down to pat, but in many ways, the flick is less about the DC character and more about how society’s undesirable practices could produce such a misguided and pitiful individual.
It’s a common trope that countless murder documentaries and movies have explored in the past, but one that is portrayed brilliantly, thanks in large part to Joaquin Phoenix’s adrenaline-pumping performance.
Brutal, violent, but disturbingly sympathetic, ‘Joker’ provides a masterful and grounded take on the iconic DC villain – one that is worthy of all the hype.