A scene from Joker

I went to see the movie Joker in a small theater in a small town with my daughter on a beautiful October afternoon. I had read reviews that mentioned the right, the left, incels, mass shootings, dangerous movies, on and on. What I ended up viewing I have to admit left me a little dazed at the end, not quite sure what exactly I had just experienced. It reminded me of my reactions to Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter and, yes, certain Scorsese movies. Like those earlier films Joker is not an uplifting or inspirational film. No character is happy, content, or even just okay. Most everyone is miserable, which sets the overall mood of the movie. There is trash everywhere on the streets (due to a strike) and grime and dirt and darkness. Arthur Fleck lives in this hopeless world. His dreams continually fall through, every day he is humiliated, he fails at whatever he tries, and finally he decides to fight back after being assaulted yet again. Empowered by a handgun, he shoots first some harassers on the subway. His medication and therapy ended because of budget cuts, he begins to expand his killing fields to include almost everyone he knows. It is a transformation that one watches with gathering gloom and horror. Arthur becomes a killing machine, evolving from a depressed, lonely nobody into the dancing, homicidal maniac the Joker, one of the greatest comic book bad guys of all. Since show business loves handing out awards Joaquin Phoenix should be at the top of the list to receive something for his intense portrayal of Arthur/Joker. The movie is a stew of mental illness, desperation, violence, hopelessness, pathos, arrogance, faint hope, lost dreams, misery and more violence…with just a dash of humor. It is not a fun movie, but a fascinating one.