Joker’s Smile is Unveiled After All

Jokers Smile is Unveiled After All

Ilana Rockwell, Entertainment Editor

Joker, released October 4, was a smashing success in the box office, earning a record-breaking 93.5 million in its opening weekend in the U.S. Using the star power of Joaquin Phoenix, who is often referenced as one of the best actors of the new generation, and the massive reputation that the iconic Batman villain brings with it, it was only expected.  

The movie showcases Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a struggling comedian living in Gotham City, which is renowned for its economic hardships and high crime rates. He works as a clown for-hire during the day and consistently struggles to fit in. Fleck also has a condition that induces hysterical laughter, which isolates him from society. He considers himself bullied and oppressed and slowly descends into madness, eventually becoming the notable figure known as Joker to all Batman fans. 

Phoenix’s acting was spectacular, bringing an entirely new depth to a character that has had such notable representations before, with actors such as Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero. With such big shoes to fill, Phoenix was still able to give an extraordinary performance that simultaneously provided a whole new perspective to the distinguished character and created a cohesive storyline throughout all the Batman movies. While most origin stories simply deliver the background to a well-known character, this movie was so impactful that it gave any version of the Joker throughout time a brand new viewpoint and added depth. 

The cinematography and music were equally breathtaking. It gave the whole movie a new level of excellence, raising it from a good story to a beautiful piece of artistic genius. For example, there is a wide shot of Fleck walking up the stairs in his miserable, everyday life after picking up his antipsychotic medicine from the local pharmacy. The entire scene gives off a sorrowful and dejected feeling, with cool tones and no music. A few scenes later, after Fleck stops taking his medication and covers himself in full clown makeup and a bold red suit, he dances down the exact same staircase to Gary Glitter’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll (Part 2),” a stadium anthem from the ‘70s. The setting seems almost entirely different and perfectly personifies Fleck’s mood. The entirety of the soundtrack has some nod to smiling and clowns, which is admirably reflective of the character, with renowned songs such as “Send in the Clowns” by Frank Sinatra, “Smile” by Jimmy Durante, and “If You’re Happy And You Know It” by Chaim Tenenbaum. 

Joker has had a substantial amount of controversy surrounding it, with police coming to some opening showings to prevent any incidents and assuage public fear after the Aurora shooting, where a Joker fanatic mass killed at a movie theater showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in 2012. Audiences were worried that the origin story might overly praise the murderer and villain. In fact, one of the last scenes of the movie that was largely publicized in trailers shows some Gotham residents lifting Joker up and praising him after he caused havoc around the city. However, what is true art if it doesn’t challenge its audiences?

  With such an incredible build-up, the ending to Joker was subpar. It showed Fleck enrolled in a mental institution and being chased around by the authorities. While the intention to give a comical ending to the clown-themed film is understandable, it felt more like an oversimplification of the character that tried, and succeeded, in having many layers. He became a one-dimensional “crazy” person who enjoyed mayhem, as opposed to the in-depth mentally ill and furious citizen of a shattered society, all in a few simple moments. Although, the scene directly before appeared to treat Joker as almost an idol and equated his actions to those of the revolutionary lower class. The movie failed to find a middle ground resolution that could satisfy the excellence of its beginning. 

The movie also seemed very repetitive in some moments. While a few scenes of Fleck uncontrollably laughing in his dark room with a gun in hand is incredibly intriguing, these appeared far too often. This gave the movie the appearance of being extremely slow-paced because of the numerous scenes which, while beautiful, do not provide the audience with any new information about the progression of the story or the character.