Deciding the heroes and villains: Joaquin Phoenix makes us rethink Jokerʼs morality

Joaquin Phoenix has made “Joker” his own masterpiece.

You probably already know that, with the movie being tagged as Octoberʼs must-see film. But be warned, director Todd Phillips wastes no time on gratifying moments.

“Joker” isnʼt the type of film that consoles you once it has doused you with such dark realities. Instead, it leaves you with questions youʼll eventually allow to rob you of sleep. Itʼs a disruptive and depressing experience that begins with such heartbreaking vulnerability and follows through with unflinching violence. 

We first meet Arthur Fleck as a kind and loving son who survives the day-to-day with his job as a clown. He
ʼs honest, hopeful. He dreams of becoming a successful stand-up comedian—heʼs got all the notes on punchlines, but his humor isnʼt quite in sync with his audience.

“I hope my death makes more cents” is one of the lines Arthurʼs got scribbled on his notebook.

In between the string of unfortunate events, Phillips allows Arthur to dream up moments of happiness, only to give the viewers some false sense of hope, or an alternate ending. But donʼt be fooled—the film is quite straightforward with its intentions. It presents itself as a grim portrait of Jokerʼs becoming, with the city of Gotham stripping him of life and humanity with each unkindness.

Arthur is fashioned by society into a villain—one that doesnʼt show any reluctance nor resentment in his transformation. As the cliche rings true: Weʼre always going to be bad guy in someone elseʼs story. And hereʼs another one: Weʼre all but a creation of the times.

Once Arthur develops a taste for revenge, it serves as the beginning of his own misdirected enlightenment. His abandonment of conscienceʼs morals offers him an unexplainable catharsis, allowing the combination of crime and cynicism to move the story forward.

Thereʼs nothing else satisfying about “Joker” other than Phoenixʼs Oscar-worthy performance. He leaves you unsettled, and his laughter reveals repressed sadness. However, for all its emotional hits, “Joker” isnʼt quite hitched to anything profound. Sure, it shows resentment to class tension and explores mental illness, but in the end, levels itself with the obvious: A cycle of violence at play.

What revives intrigue is how Phillips makes us think twice about the film: Was Arthur really key to starting an anti-rich movement or did he make everything up in his head?

And in the end we can only wish it was all but a delusion.

Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
“Joker” is now showing in cinemas nationwide. 

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