Joker: Directed by Todd Phillips
Todd Phillips said in a recent interview with Vanity Fair that his version of the Joker is the result of having been pushed to abandon comedy, a genre that he considers ruined. “He tries to be funny nowadays with this awareness culture,” he challenged the interviewer.
And it is that Phillips has carved out a name for himself, and I would say that a quite defined authorship, around the movies of colleagues hitting the party father. A type of comedy full of thick humor, crazy parties, sex, drugs and everything that could be an evolution of its original Road Trip and Those University Revelries, culminating in the popular hangover trilogy. The “bro comedy” as a paradigm of a carefree and carefree type of humor born at a time when the public did not have the current loudspeaker to read you the primer.
He is more or less right, his reading of the state of things has pushed him to take a leap as an author and, seeing his time at festivals and the bulk of criticism, it has done his career more than good. For Phillips, his version of the Joker has been the path to remain a transgressor outside of comedy. Taking a popular character from the world of comics, a mythical villain, and telling through him the story of a misfit and misunderstood guy who ends up blowing up against the world around him.
His film, with a scrupulous care of the point of view, hits us on the neck of Arthur Fleck, a low-paid clown by profession and humorist by vocation, who suffers from serious mental problems, the most obvious symptom being hysterical and uncontrollable laughter that explodes. in stressful situations.
Fleck is a SCRUPT. I use capital letters because the film makes an extreme effort to turn its protagonist into the ultra-victim, the most bitchy guy in history. If the above weren’t enough, the guy is ugly, he lives with his mother in his forties, his classmates make fun of him, the kids humiliate him and hit him, people treat him like a pest when he tries to be nice, the cuts In health they leave him without medication and without the treatment of a psychologist who does not really listen to him. And all of that before we find out certain things about his own family. In short, the saddest sad clown in the world.
Here I must acknowledge my absolute phobia of the clown and the archetype of the sad clown, of that painful idea of the comedian as someone who makes others laugh while crying inside. I really can not. The idea that a profession like making people laugh, which is vocational, tries to ennoble it by turning it into a ballast for those who practice it, the martyr of happiness, kills me. And Joker, to top it off, clings only to the negative part of that archetype. Fleck, who is supposed to be a vocational humorist, could have wanted to be a couplet singer and the movie would have done much the same. He’s not a joker, he’s not witty, he’s not talented, he just uses humor as a springboard to recognition that is constantly denied him.
Here the film directly links, as has already been mentioned numerous times, with The King of Comedy. Scorsese’s film presented a protagonist very similar to that of Joker but without the need to recharge the ink so much and with a clearer display of love for the profession, although recognition continued to be the main desire.
Both titles share a broad structure, except that here the drift towards psychopathy is forced by the character’s own mythology. A journey from invisible victim to (involuntary) symbol of the weariness of a precarious society that is reflected in the most violent way. The recognition that this gives him is the culmination of his illusions, what it unleashes, he does not care exactly. It is an exercise in pure and obvious selfishness that breaks, I think, with the thesis that the film tries to extol the criminal as a hero or that it is “incel” propaganda. Phillips at no time saves the character, but he does expose him as the symptom of a sick and individualistic society. And it is that broken society that, taken to the limit, can see a lifeline in the most wrong place.
In any case, whether or not you want to make a political reading of the story, what is evident is that Joker is an exercise in permanent excess. From the aforementioned conception of the character and his circumstances to the work of the leading actor himself (skeletal, greasy-haired, unfriendly, a smoker with poor teeth, contracted and full of tics). A composition as virtuous as it is over the top that could be seen as one of those onanistic jazz solos that end up screeching in concert. It may be consistent with the mythology of a character that has always been chaos and madness, but it clashes with the naturalistic style that Phillips proposes and is exhausting.
Perhaps the big joke in all of this happens, as Phillips’ initial musing, happens outside of the movie. Having fled comedy so as not to be subjected to virtual rants and complaints, Joker has been ridiculously involved in yet another controversy about whether the cinema promotes violent attitudes, to the point that Warner had to make a statement about it and that there are cinemas asking viewers, even in Spain, not to carry weapons or masks when attending the film.