Joker fails to impress while the Joker remains beloved

Sarah Buchmann

Joker, possibly one of the most anticipated movies of 2019, released into theatres across the country this past Friday. 

The character Joker is in superhero comics and other movies, Joker isn’t a superhero movie itself – it’s an origin story for Batman’s most famous nemesis. 

The main character, Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is undoubtedly a unique portrayal of the infamous villain. 

Joker zooms in on mental illness and treatment, or rather, lack thereof in the ‘80s when the movie takes place in Gotham City. 

Fleck and his mother both suffer from mental health disorders; Fleck is shown in the movie to be on seven types of medication. 

Fleck writes in his therapeutic journal in the movie, “The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” 

One of Fleck’s conditions, pseudobulbar affect, is a real neurological disorder typically comprising of hysterical outbursts and uncontrollable laughing. 

Fleck’s pseudobulbar affect explains the incessant cackling and sinister, recognizable laughter we’ve all come to know as the Joker’s signature characteristic. 

In an interview with Total Film, Phoenix commented on how the film addressed early childhood trauma and abuse. 

“When I read through the script, I noticed the traits of PTSD,” Phoenix said. 

Fleck’s background only seems to make the Joker’s personality even more explainable and realistic. 

Fleck’s mental illness is derived from an extremely abusive childhood and physical injury, which Fleck hardly realizes. 

Instead, he idolizes his mother to an extreme. 

Several times throughout the movie, Fleck says “My mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face. 

She told me I had a purpose: to bring laughter and joy to the world.” 

Fleck wants to be a stand-up comedian and is obsessed with Robert de Niro’s character, Murray Franklin, a late-night talk show host. 

The obsession roots itself in fantasies and role playing scenarios until Fleck is actually invited on Franklin’s show as a guest – not as a comedian, but as a gag: someone to laugh at. 

Joker is not an easy film to watch. 

Essentially, viewers watch a man’s downward spiral into an even deeper madness than he is used to, due to lack of medication for his mental illness, which ultimately leads to a political uproar in Gotham City. 

While it’s not as gory as other “anti-hero” movies (looking at you, Deadpool), the death toll and blood count is high, and right in front of viewers’ eyes. 

I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s “necessary” for the movie, but it’s not excessive (again, Deadpool) or nightmare-inducing. 

Perhaps the psychologically thrilling aspect of the movie is what caused its success in the box office; Joker currently has a 69% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a nine out of ten on IMDb. 

Joker has also caused a lot of controversy with its release. 

Many people are still in mourning over the 2012 mass shooting in a movie theatre playing The Dark Knight Rises, and one of the most famous Joker actors, Heath Ledger, committed suicide after method-acting the role. 

“Phoenix’s acting was spot-on and he did an incredible job with the script and character, but the film was hard to follow and fully divulge myself into.” 

Police squad cars were in the parking lots of movie theatres all over the country and here in Bloomington just in case the Joker’s violence inspired more shootings and harm. 

So far, nothing has happened, but many are still wary of going to see the film in theatres. 

Despite the media craze about the movie, I wouldn’t say Joker is the amazing film I was told it would be. 

Phoenix’s acting was spot-on and he did an incredible job with the script and character, but the film was hard to follow and fully divulge myself into. 

I had difficulty finding a plot until the end of the movie; about an hour in, I was amazed to realize I was only halfway through and still had no clue what was actually happening. 

The movie ends on a note which definitely anticipates a sequel, and I am sure it will be nominated for several awards once the season rolls around, but I was not blown away by Joker

That being said, Phoenix’s portrayal is one which will be praised highly and may possibly 

Stars: 3/5