“Uh, Duh… Hey, der, if you do anything wrong in your life, and I find out about it, I’m going to try take everything away from. I don’t care what I find out. It could be today, tomorrow, fifteen, twenty years from now — If I find out, you’re fucking…duh…finished.”
“Who is that?” comedian Dave Chappelle asked in his latest Netflix special. “That’s you! That’s what the audience sounds like to me!”
Watching a Thursday matinee of director and co-writer Todd Phillips’ Joker, I couldn’t help but sense that the movie was asking this same question… and returning with the same answer.
Who are Joker’s mindless followers? Who are these maladjusted malcontents, these adult losers who live with their mothers; these useless idiots who exist in literal garbage and keep voting for the same politicians to run their Gotham City? Who are these crybabies who worship a murderer, these nihilists who hold RESIST signs, who scream KILL THE RICH!, who hate cops, who “don’t believe in anything,” who think something’s wrong with society because they’re not “happy all the time”? Who cover their faces with masks so they can riot and go wilding under the pretense this criminal and cowardly behavior is an act of virtue?
“Who is that?” Phillips asks. “That’s you! That’s what you in the audience look and sound like to me!”
Imagine you’re Todd Phillips: You’re 48-years old, and for 20 of those years you devoted yourself to producing one box office comedy hit after another … and now all of that, everything that defined your work and passion, has been declared “problematic” by nobodies; by losers whose only skill is tweeting out their mindless cancellation requests: These all white, male, heterosexual bro comedies are problematic.
Imagine you’re Todd Phillips, and for the last 20 years you’ve sweated blood, risked much, and faced countless setbacks and failures in pursuit of a hard-earned success in one of the most difficult businesses to succeed in; and now, because of your success and the wealth that comes with it, you are “problematic” — as in, We need to occupy and take everything away from problematic rich people.
Imagine you’re Todd Phillips, a white heterosexual male under constant attack just for being a white heterosexual male — as in, White heterosexual males are problematic, especially rich ones who make bro comedies.
Hey, art is subjective, and I went into this thing assuming it would be a tribute of sorts to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) and King of Comedy (1982), a new approach to comic book fare — you know, that kind of thing.
But I saw what I saw, and what I saw is this…
An artist who turned his legitimate frustrations with the Antifa-Occupy-Black Lives Matter-Resistance crybabies, these anarchist-fascists who seek to marginalize men like Todd Phillips for who he is, punish him for his success, and then censor his art. I think Phillips took all of that and turned it into his muse, not only to create the stunning Joker, but to reinvent himself as an artist.
“Joker is you!” Phillips is saying. “Joker is the godless god you spoiled losers worship; a sociopath who believes in nothing, who wants to burn down society because he’s not happy all the time — your leader is Madness, Anarchy, Intolerance, Jealousy, Envy, Bigotry, and Hate.”
If that is not enough of a red pill moment, there’s the gun, or… The Gun.
Joker doesn’t get his hands on The Gun due to lax gun control laws. The Gun comes to him illegally. The Gun empowers a dangerously mentally ill individual who is not getting the mental health help he requires because he lives in an urban nightmare run by incompetent urban politicians.
Reviewer after reviewer after reviewer has attacked the movie as siding with the Joker, as empathizing with “a white incel who picks up a gun and lashes out at society to solve his problems.”
What movie did these idiots watch? Phillips doesn’t empathize with the Joker. He reverse-engineers him. This character has been around for nearly eighty years, so we already know what he becomes. All Phillips does is take him apart, piece by piece, and give us a tour of his mind.
And it is only in his mind, only in his psychosis, that Joker sees himself as capable of humanity and charm. In the real world, the worst of the Joker’s murders are so unthinkable Phillips refuses to let us watch.
No, no, no… Joker is not tomorrow’s mass shooter. He is the golden calf worshiped by the very same woketard critics attacking Joker, looking to blacklist artistic expression; Joker is those on Twitter and on Rotten Tomatoes who have never accomplished a single goddamn thing in their own pathetic lives other than to tear those down who have… Joker is the god of those who condemn Phillips for coloring outside the “approved” lines, for putting RESIST signs in the hands of losers, for daring to speak out against the destruction of his beloved comedy genre in America’s new Woketopia.
They’re too stupid and too blinded by their own sanctimony to get it: Joker is YOU!
Joker is also a total success, a dead-center bull’s-eye. This is not a movie for everyone. Those looking for a summertime, superhero thrill-ride need to look elsewhere. Joker is a monster movie, an October movie, a slow burn of tension and dread with no relief, not even a moment of caped crusader-style catharsis.
As Arthur Fleck/Joker, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is a jaw-dropper. His lithe body is as twisted and perverse as his character’s mind. This is a guy barely hanging on, a confused slob dependent on a government-run health care system staffed with soulless bureaucrats protected by a soulless bureaucracy in a city that can’t even pick up the garbage.
Joker warns us of what happens when a society is stupid enough to allow the government to control health care; warns us that what the government giveth, the government can also taketh away. And take away from Fleck it does, and without his medication and with The Gun, Fleck at long last finds a way to matter.
Naturally, the shallow sire of celebrity is one way to matter, but even this is not what it seems. Robert De Niro’s Johnny Carson-style late night host Murray Franklin isn’t the enemy. Sure, he mocks Arthur’s failed stand-up attempt, but then he brings him on the show as a guest, gives him a real shot, and doesn’t allow his booker to bully the poor guy.
Phillips isn’t attacking this old school-style of show business. Instead, he’s reminding us of a more gracious era when people could still take a joke, the pre-Colbert/Kimmel era where the mockery was good-natured instead of bitter elitism, where a handshake and a real opportunity followed.
De Niro’s Murray Franklin is eventually revealed as a man of conscience and character, a man who made Arthur’s dream literally come true.
Sure, Joker is another comic book movie. And yet, it’s really not. Those of us who regularly complain about Hollywood’s lack of originality and adult fare have a reason to rejoice, to have our faith reaffirmed.
But again, this is not a movie for everyone, certainly not kids. This is the stuff of nightmares, and not just the story. Every shot is disturbing. Phillips knows exactly where to place his camera, and adding to that squirm-in-your-seat sense of dread is Hildur Ingveldardóttir Guðnadóttir’s beautifully unsettling score and Mark Friedberg’s production design, which perfectly recreates pre-Giuliani New York City.