‘Joker’ depicts mental health issues, violent behavior in new film

by Seth Hall

Staff Writer

Note the following review contains spoilers.

Controversy and psychopathic behavior control the screen in the new movie, “Joker.”

“Joker,” directed by Todd Philips, is by far one of the most interesting films I have seen in a while. As the movie begins, a 1970 grim-feeling environment is apparent. Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix, demands the screen.  Right away, it is apparent foreshadowing is taking place while he performs sign spinning in the front of a business. His sign is robbed and he confronts the thieves. He is attacked and left in a lonely alley. The movie pans out with him crying in the cold, wet alley. This sets the pace for how dark the movie is. It’s a tough scene to watch, as Arthur had done nothing to deserve such a beating. But this is only a glimpse of how society fails him.   

Throughout the movie, his career as a freelance clown slowly spirals downward, finally ending when he was at what appeared to be a Cancer treatment facility for children. Dancing around caused a handgun to fall from his clothing, causing him to panic and grab it from the floor. The scene is very off putting, as every kid in the room has to awkwardly watch in disbelief at what happened. This was the end of his career, as he was promptly fired, although things take a turn for the worse on his way home.

 It is clear Arthur suffers from mental illness, evidenced by an uncontrollable laugh. This can be seen on the train when he is on his way home. Three drunken businessmen causing trouble probe him about the situation and why he was laughing.

Unfortunately, like much of the rest of the film, these men take turns punching and kicking at Arthur, before one of the three men takes a bullet to the head, sending him backwards. The second man takes two shots to the chest. The last of the men attempted to escape and is shot in the leg, leaving him limping around with blood dripping from his wound.  Arthur, in this moment, shows true nihilism by following the wounded man off the train before gunning him down. This scene was around five minutes long, and it was among the three most disturbing scenes in the movie.

The movie takes a much darker turn after Arthur discovers his mother Penny Fleck, played by Frances Conroy, lied to him and hid the fact that she allowed her boyfriend to beat Arthur as a child, causing many of his problems. This leads him to kill his mother in the hospital. The scene is very dark and grim.

This moment surprised me, simply because prior to this, his mother seemed almost romantically close, even though this wasn’t a fact. The only girl Arthur begins to form a relationship with turns out to all be in his head. After he kills his mother, he spirals down into the psychopath he was building up to be throughout the movie.

The movie continues to take dark twists when two fellow coworkers come to Arthur’s apartment to offer condolences after his mother’s death. Once conversation ensues with the three of them, things go wrong very quickly. Arthur unexpectedly plunges scissors into the eye of one of the men, as well as his throat. He proceeds to smash the man’s head into a wall until what sounds like his skull busts. The scene is one of the most disturbing and violent in the movie.

The second man, who is a little person, is left trapped between the bloody corpse and the door. The scene is worsened by the fact the man is unable to reach the lock and let himself out. Fortunately, he is not added to the body count in the movie. 

As the movie comes to a close, Arthur takes on the persona of Joker full on when he covers his face in the iconic makeup and puts on a red suit. As he makes his way to a talk show hosted by a man named Frank Murray, played by Robert DeNiro, he is seen jumping down a flight of stairs. I was shocked to find that the song “Rock & Roll Part 2” by Gary Glitter played throughout the scene. This may have flown over many people’s heads, although the use of this song as the Joker embraces his nihilism is a very controversial move. The reason for controversy is due to Gary Glitter being convicted of sexually assaulting young school girls.

Once he arrives at the show, he begins to discuss social issues that remain in Gotham, as well as how he blames the people for all being awful. Among those he directs blame to is Murray. This comes as a surprise to him, as Murray feels he has done nothing wrong.

The scene begins to gain edge as Joker begins speaking much faster and angrily. Finally, he pulls a gun and shoots Murray in the head, leaving his lifeless body leaning back in his chair. Joker casually embraces the moment in true psychopathic form until it’s apparent he is arrested. Despite being arrested, Joker feels happy about his actions, which is very disturbing, until, out of nowhere, a vehicle hits the police cruiser he is in.

The movie closes with him above a crowd of people cheering and praising him for his work. This is a major shift in how society had treated him up until this moment.

Overall, the “Joker” was cinematically well written and played out. There are many disturbing issues the movie allows the audience to experience. On top of the visually disturbing scenes, the movie maintains a very dark presence throughout. I would rate this movie on various points, for acting, violence, and cinematography. The acting in this movie was absolutely impeccable. It left an all-too-real feeling when dealing with characters. I would rate it 10/10. This movie was not the most violent movie, but the way the violence is depicted is very disturbing. The violence is shown in a way that feels all too real to the audience. If I were to rate the violence in this movie, I would give it a 9/10. This movie, regardless of social and graphic issues, remains a phenomenal example of cinematography. I would give it an overall 9.5/10.

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