By Jordan Geisler —
Todd Phillips’s”Joker” is out and causing controversy. In the shadow of the 2012 shooting during a “Dark Knight Rises viewing, the film about the infamous character is creating mixed reviews.
The movie gives the backstory for Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix, and how he evolves into the Joker. Living an unfulfilling life as a clown-for-hire and aspiring comedian, Fleck is abused by many—both verbally and physically—and is written off due to his neurological disorder for inappropriate laughing.
Fleck lives with his mother played by Frances Conroy, and obsesses over Sophie, played by Zazie Beetz, who lives down the hall in his apartment building. But despite the horrors and disappointments of his life, Fleck finds hope and laughter when watching a talk show featuring his favorite comedian Robert DeNiro’s character Murray Franklin.
The movie itself is uncomfortable. Phoenix superbly captures Fleck’s decaying and unhinged mental state, so much so it becomes hard to watch towards the end. The constant abuse that Fleck faces feels personal and painful, and after a certain point you can’t take seeing the same situation play out for Fleck over and over again.
Many critics believe the movie is too violent, but in all actuality, it’s not, or at least not more so than any other movies that have recently been made.
Fleck kills six people in total, which isn’t much compared to a “John Wick” or “Jason Bourne” movie, but the message being sent is that murder is justifiable as revenge and that the way to resolve conflict is to simply kill off your enemies.
Another theme of the movie revolves around mental illness. Fleck, who we learn was institutionalized, is severely depressed and finds happiness through killing people.
Granted, Fleck’s mental instability and history of abuse are clear culprits, but rather than try to evoke sympathy, the moments where Fleck is attacked almost urge you to take his side in rationalizing and accepting murder as the sure-fire way to solve his problems.
More than just another addition to the DC universe, “Joker” goes too far in justifying violence and brutality to an audience that might suffer from the same problems.
Graphic by Shayla Kerr / The Louisville Cardinal