Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there?
The story of a man descending into madness and awakening to his own existence seems more appropriate than ever. During such an unstable social and political climate, the new movie Joker resonated as “irresponsible” for some, raising controversy and uncomfortable feelings. But there’s absolutely nothing irresponsible about this film, on the contrary, it is an important piece of work that demands immediacy and careful dissection. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is a transcendental portrayal of evil and beauty colliding, living inside all of us. As he gracefully moves his body in a contemporary dance-like and performative manner through the steps of Gotham City, he discovers a world filled with darkness and mutant super rats. The citizens are fed up with the corruption, the poverty, the manipulative media and the corporate blood-sucking giant – hiding behind clown masks and rioting seems the only way out.
The character of Arthur Fleck, the infamous Joker, accurately symbolizes the outcast, mentally ill, forgotten and belittled by society type of individual. The invisible ones, untouchables, mere freaks. Relentlessly searching for genuine smiles, warmth and compassion; he questions: is it just me or is it getting crazier out there? For such a deep troubled character, his viewpoints seem valid and extremely lucid. How does one survive in society if during his entire life he was pushed out to the corners, constantly being reminded there is no place for him? How does one find the needed resources to change his own path and regain self-confidence if no one listens to him?
In between beautiful retro colors and meddling musical scores, we find once again a system that insists on failing us. A system for the privileged ones, the kind that deteriorates a man’s soul faster than poison. But just when the viewer enters the spiral of despair and fragility, Frank Sinatra’s voice spills throughout the room, gently staining an eerie atmosphere with cheerful enthusiasm. “That’s Life” ties it all together, answering Arthur’s questions with a simple advice: each time you find yourself flat on your face, you better pick yourself up and get back in the race.
For the most part, the film is painfully lonely and heart wrenching, but the promise of a “better tomorrow” after each scene keeps the audience on their toes. It’s hard to predict what comes next, there are indeed no punchlines. Phoenix’s profound commitment to the character is noticeable at all times, from the aggressive changes on his body to the perfectly crafted erratic behavior of the character. It’s hard to look away yet it’s hard to stare right in the face. The new Joker demands our undivided attention, perhaps a painful but necessary invitation for all of us to look in the mirror and face the reality at hand: mental illness is taking far too many lives and our government does not represent the vast majority, only a few. It is time to put on a serious face.