Joker 2019 drama, crime
This film fits neatly into the “mind games” movie genre because the narrator, Arthur Fleck (aka Joker) has serious mental health problems treated with seven drugs. In one particular key scene, early in the film, Arthur came off of his medicine, which I assumed are a mix of anti-psychotics. So at this point we know, or at least suspect, that we are watching a wild mix of fantasy and real life during the transition of Fleck into Joker. This device makes Joker a rare bird, and I rather enjoyed the ambiguity and the change of pace. Not to reveal too much, the first scene I thought was pure fantasy in Arthur’s mind involved his female neighbor in the shitty apartment complex. Arthur has a crush on the attractive, single mother living down the hall, but there are a few tips that the relationship was pure imagination.
Arthur and the subway mass shooting was a scene I thought was reality based. Gotham City, Arthur’s home town, is made to look like early 1980’s New York City. There are neither desktop computers nor cell phones. Arthur’s TV is a boxy CRT on stick legs. The cars are obviously 1980s vintage. From my perspective, the character of Arthur Fleck seemed to be, in part, based on Bernhard Goetz. As I recall, Mr. Goetz, a white male, shot four black muggers on a New York subway in 1984. Goetz was arrested and his trial became a major three-ring circus. Goetz soared to Folk Hero status and the shooting focused the media and public attention on the serious escalation of violent crime in NYC. Feeling the heat of millions of angry, fed-up citizens (voters), the normally complacent, useless NYC politicos decided to make major changes and adopted “broken windows” policing. Goetz was acquitted by the jury, and with a new sheriff in town, the crime rate was under control.
The climax of the film is Arthur’s guest appearance on the Murray Franklin Show. Is this event real or fantasy? The last half of the movie might actually be one of Arthur’s fantasies because we watch as Arthur empties out his mother’s refrigerator, climbs inside, and closes the door. We never see him emerge from the refrigerator, so did he die in the icebox making the whole latter half of the movie a dying man’s hallucination? Yes, it is that kind of movie.
I have read both glowing and scathing reviews of Joker – people either love it or hate it, but all the movie reviewers agree that the film is technically very well done. I recommend the film without hesitation – it is not a typical comic book movie. I plan to watch it again. If you are the type of movie fan that is comfortable with a degree of vagueness or uncertainty in a film, I suggest two more films for your watching pleasure; Mullholland Drive (2001) and Detour (1945). In both movies the narrator is unreliable, just like in Joker, so keep asking yourself – Am I seeing this straight? For an extra bonus, find the hidden clues in Mulholland Drive here.