Heath Ledger’s Joker had no rationale for his actions. Todd Phillips with Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker wants to identify the reasons for this affinity towards violence. Trying to get into the psyche of one of the most famous super-villain of modern times. The grey in the black, if you will.
It’s a dangerous territory the director is venturing in. Even if you aren’t part of the ‘liberal gang’ who wants filmmakers to be responsible, it is hard to find reasons and justifications of such a macabre level of destruction. So, the director tiptoes around the subject, straying clear offence as such. The train incident which did take place in 1984, is used to instigate as the ‘final straw’ which changes Arthur Fleck to Joker. But it has been cleared off any racial connotations. The banality of the film is only partially reduced by epic embodiment by Joaquin Phoenix of this character.
Young kids behave like hooligans, a colleague appeals to his worst urges, his boss is rude and selfish, his hero and TV show host (Robert De Niro) ridicules him by playing random out of context clips from his standup sequence, an abusive childhood, and a delusional mother, suffering from an involuntary laughing condition, a fair bit happens to poor-old Arthur Fleck.
In the city, chaos is looming as those in power are oblivious to the tensions on the ground. Their guarded studios and theatres are locked away in stillness as mutiny brews on the streets. Politicians incite them further but making derogatory and ignorant comments. The mob is ready to bring the city to halt. It just needs a face or a hero. Arthur Fleck is your hero/villain.
The mob, however, is just ‘against the rich’. Although neurotic, a lot of things happening are all reactionary. Neurotic because Phoenix makes it look that way with his performance helped by on-point production design by Mark Friedberg and fantastic cinematography by Lawrence Sher. Unfortunately not from the director. Arthur’s misanthropy (to a degree) and nihilism is in the eyes, in his dances, and the way he runs. But again, the events that happen are not deep enough to invoke a response on the scale Phillips desires.
Its’ more a revenge story of one man rather than a film that can stir up a movement. Liberated from the constraints of society, family, and laws, he becomes an icon. The invisible loser is getting all the attention. At times the director stays away from providing a rationale for the man’s actions. There are things Arthur does which have no basis. He just does it because he can. At other times, reasons are offered.
The filmmaker, stirs clear of going into one direction will full zeal. Rather he totters around the subject, without making anyone point a priority. This is just about Arthur Fleck, not the world we live in. Entertaining all thanks to the performer rather than storytelling.