At The Movies: Joker

Review by Tom Duong

I recently saw the new movie, Joker, and I’m not sure how to define it. Maybe a bit of dark aesthetic, maybe a depressive vibe. Regardless, it left an impression on me.

What stuck in my head the most is the laughter of Arthur Fleck, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix. The first thing I think of is his madness; he can’t control his laughter due to mental illness, and the laughs express the pain that he’s had to suffer. It’s also ironic, since as a comedian, his job is to make others laugh, and he can’t stop.

Arthur tried to live the best he could by staying with his mother in an apartment to help her and taking his medicine regularly. However, life seems to hold him down, especially when he gets bullied and beaten. As a viewer, I wanted to sympathize with Arthur’s challenges, but he goes off the deep end, and that becomes hard.

There are clear themes of mental illness, poverty, and how they shape people. Arthur’s transformation in the movie from a poor, mentally-ill comedian, to an insane criminal that inspires people to start a riot, was executed in a shocking way. I would suggest that you clear your head before you see Joker, since it’s very deep and full of intense emotion. But I would definitely recommend it for the great retro atmosphere and the artistic aspects.