Warning: the following contains spoilers, most likely. I can’t think of anything specifically, but just bear it in mind in case you haven’t seen Joker.
I’ve had some time to digest my feelings about the new movie, Joker. Or have I?
That’s the feeling I’m getting, that the Inception level of confusion and brutal lack of segue between the real and the hallucinatory, that that’s going to stick with people for a very long time.
In the beginning I was worried. We live in troubling times. The going concern was that the movie would inspire angry, confused adolescents to violence, and justify malevolent self-pity.
And this Joker is quite a charismatic figure. By the gritty standards of the early 80s, through which lens this film is shot, he is the epitome of devil may care outlaw. He smokes, he dances, the lines of his suit are perfect. He charms crowds, woos ladies, and incites mass violence with horrific grace. Some of the time.
Other times we are witness to scenes of his life that test the boundaries of pity. Not whether Arthur Fleck is worthy of it, but just how much we, as observers, are physically capable of feeling the emotion. How deep does that well go?
We learn together as we watch him tend to his fragile mother, herself mired in a miasma of obsession, desperation, and possible delusion? We watch his weak professional life crumble, his social and medical support structures fail, and ultimately his world view itself is turned on its heel, only to be spun again, and again.
The audience can’t know what to make of Joker. What is real, when reality can be so subjective? Can we truly believe that the city rallies enthusiastically behind a subway murderer just because the trash isn’t getting picked up?
But that’s the point. Some of the fantasies to which he drifts are entirely ridiculous, such as when
Travis Bickle Murray Franklin invites him down from the audience and lavishes him with praise. But other elements are harder to verify, and the questions continue to swirl long after the film ends, and well after I should have started doing something more productive with my energy.
I mean, was his mother even real?