Brutal character produced by a brutal society.
The buzz is strong for Joaquin Phoenix’ Joker, and for good reason. It’s a harsh art film and what it does is make Gotham a character, the antagonist. It’s Arthur Fleck vs. Gotham, and by the end maybe Gotham deserves to lose. Gotham is the mismanagement, the government, the media, the public: they’re hostile to the individual, especially one who tries too hard to be happy.
I certainly have no desire to return to New York City after watching Joker. Not even for a plane stopover. The environment is so grating and oppressive there’s just no relief. They kept the film in this stifling space for the entire duration. That’s fine for artistic intent, but it kind of wears you down after awhile.
It’s a film to watch and to appreciate, but not to love. When you love a movie you want to see it again and again. No such drive to revisit Joker. Seen it, and that’s where it needs to end.
The story does something else I consider positive. It doesn’t shy away from the class war. Gotham is a plutocracy, corrupt, and falling apart. Maybe the Joker shouldn’t be in charge, but burning it down does start to make some sense. Joker repeatedly claims not to be political, but the film is inherently political, and some will get what’s coming to them. Joker’s lashing out to strike back does inspire quite a few others, not all of them mentally ill. There’s justification for his mad revolution.