Put On A Happy Face

Joaquin Phoenix puts out an Oscar worthy performance, many of his scenes are uncomfortable to watch and get right under the audience’s skin. The method of storytelling is so interesting because it’s through the eyes of a delusional man so we are meant to question everything that happens. We never know what is real and what isn’t which makes the whole story open to interpretation much like the famous comic The Killing Joke. In that comic the Joker said “If I’m going to have a past I prefer it to be multiple choice.” which perfectly fits into this film and unreliable point of view from the Jokers’ eyes.

Joker also has a lot to say about society and politics in their fictional world which mirrors the real world but not a one for one match it’s a distorted view like a funhouse mirror. The poorer community in Gotham adopts the clown masks after an incident early on against three Wayne enterprise employees on a train. They use as a form of intimidation after being called clowns by Thomas Wayne, the movement was successful in striking fear in the upper class.

Arthur Fleck even writes in his own journal that we as a society expect those with a mental illness to act like they don’t have one when others should really be the more flexible ones and not treat them differently.

The cinematographer Lawrence Sher beautifully sets up shots to juxtapose each other like the scenes with the social worker and then him eventually talking to a doctor in a mental institution, also in both scenes the clock in the background reads 11:11 which alludes to them possibly being the same memory just told differently from a man suffering from delusions. He also uses the same motif in the stair scenes where we first see Arthur ascend the stairs with dark and gloomy lighting to his current life of struggling to get by and be a functioning member of society, the other now iconic scene of the stairs is him triumphantly dancing down them in full joker attire with the bright sun on his back to show he had finally descended into madness and is embracing his insanity.

Jokers third act kicks everything into high gear the pacing, the violence, the tension, and especially the chaos that ensues. All of this is made even better by Hildur Guonadottir the way she builds tension through drawn out crescendos is masterful and carries so much weight to it and emotional impact. The end of the film leaves one with many questions on what was real what actually happened and if any of it is even true or are they more false memories which already have such a strong presence in the film. More directors and writers should be willing to give their stories an open ending instead of spoon feeding viewers what exactly is happening, instead they should challenge us to think and come to our own conclusions even if it is different from the directors view on it and that’s the beauty of art is that it is all subjective so it becomes what we make it much like the memories of the delusional Arthur Fleck.


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