Posts Tagged Robert De Niro

Joker

jokerdancing

A dark tale for our times

Dir: Todd Phillips
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix
Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen, Shea Whigham, Bill Camp, Marc Maron
15 cert
122 mins

Joker is a film that depicts a damaged man in a broken society. It is an origin story that answers the question: “How did Arthur Fleck (played powerfully and convincingly by Joaquin Phoenix) become the Joker?”.

As you might expect the explanation follows a dark trajectory. The story is told entirely from the perspective of Fleck. He is tormented by mental illness in a harsh society that doesn’t care about him. He is exploited and abused. It’s a harrowing portrayal of a man about to go over the edge. You are never quite sure what is real and what is delusional as we are taken into his mind.

It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Fleck and question the way society treats him. As Fleck becomes Joker it seems all too plausible. Is this transformation a further fall into madness or self-actualization? Joker leaves that question open but the scene where Fleck becomes Joker and triumphally dances down steps to the tune of convicted child sex offender Gary Glitter – “Rock and Roll Part 2” – is haunting.

One of the themes of the film is “you get what you deserve”. As Joker strikes back at the people who run the twisted, amoral society that has abandoned and rejected him he becomes “an icon of resistance to a mob of masked troublemakers” (as the Telegraph put it). Joker resonates with rioters who put on clown-faced masks. The violence is unrelenting and often difficult to watch. Our own society uses violence as entertainment routinely – the Director of Joker pointed to John Wick 3 when criticized in the media. Perhaps these films are our version of the Roman arena?

Will we see Joker and clown masks at real-world demonstrations/riots? It’s not impossible. The Guy Fawkes visage from V For Vendetta has been adopted by Anonymous, the Occupy movement, and most recently the Hong Kong marchers. Will we see the theme “You get what you deserve” adopted as a slogan? As our world gets madder it could happen.

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

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