Joker Movie Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

The gloomy city of Gotham, early 1980s. Forty-year-old Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) lives in a squalid apartment with his sick mother, Penny (Frances Conroy). Artur has a mental illness, received in childhood after a strong blow to the head, goes to a psychotherapist for consultations, where he is prescribed medication. He dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian and writes all sorts of ideas for jokes and sketches in a notebook.

Arthur works in the “Ha-ha” service, which provides people in clown costumes for a variety of needs: advertising, working as animators with children, and so on.

Arthur’s mother writes letters to the well-known city rich man Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) – she worked in his family thirty years ago. Penny writes to Thomas about the plight she and her son are in and asks for help. But she never gets answers to these letters.

At some point during the next session, Arthur’s psychotherapist informs him that their branch is closed: the city no longer wants to spend money on helping people like Arthur.

As a result, Arthur stops taking the pills, and then he also finds out some shocking details from his past, so this will not lead to anything good.


When I heard about this project, at first I thought that it would be such a prequel to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. As you remember, at one time Nolan completely rethought the whole Batman, staging the most interesting film “Batman Begins”, in which Bruce Wayne was not a superhero at all, but a man from a very rich family who, having gone through very dramatic events, became Batman exclusively with with the help of science. And it was not a comic at all, it was a fairly realistic drama.

Then, in The Dark Knight, the confrontation between Batman and the Joker began, and the personality of the Joker was also very different from his interpretation in the original Batman comics, and Heath Ledger did something amazing with his Joker, it was an absolutely outstanding role.

Well, when there was talk about the new “Joker”, I thought that it would be something like “Joker: The Beginning”, where they would show how the Joker came to such a life. And this, in general, sounded quite logical. And the actor chosen for the role of the Joker was reassuring: Joaquin Phoenix is ​​a wonderful actor, I was sure that he would cope with the role.

True, the director’s personality was somewhat embarrassing, because Todd Phillips is known as the director of very simple comedies, including the super-successful “The Hangover” and “The Hangover 2: From Vegas to Bangkok”, and their box office success does not at all negate the fact that these comedies, in my opinion, very so-so. And now Todd Phillips – and a drama about the Joker? But, however, after the comedian Peter Farelli staged “Green Book” – a smart and subtle tragicomedy that did not correlate in any way with the usual style of rollicking vulgar crafts issued by his tandem with his brother Bobby – I stopped being surprised at such transformations.

And what happened to Todd Phillips with the film “Joker”?

This, of course, is not a comic book at all. But, by the way, that’s how it was with Nolan’s “Batman Begins”, which was completely different from the film comics and at the same time struck with its realism.

At the same time, “Joker” just surprisingly has very little to do with “The Dark Knight”, although it was generally believed that this was a prequel to this film. Why? Yes, because the Joker from the new film is not at all the Joker that was shown in The Dark Knight. Well, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker could not be reborn into Heath Ledger’s Joker, these are completely different types, different characters. Yes, they are both psychos, but psychos are completely different.

Therefore, their continuity – from bottom to top, from top to bottom – is very conditional, or rather, this continuity is not observed at all.

Is it bad? No, not bad. It’s just a different movie, in fact – and not a prequel. Which, by the way, caused great disappointment among a certain part of the audience: they expected to be shown “Joker: The Beginning.” And this, as Monty Python said, is something completely different.

Joker is a very depressing and dark film. But that’s exactly how he was meant to be. The city of Gotham is shown as a rare cesspool: its streets are littered with garbage, the walls of houses and subway cars are painted with graffiti, crime is at a very high level, the stratification of society is greater than ever – the vast majority of residents literally beg, and the rich elite of the city frankly despises the poor.

And Arthur lives in all this – an unfortunate person who experienced a very serious trauma in childhood, which periodically makes him suddenly burst out into a very frightening laugh. He dreams of becoming a comedian, he tries to hide from the abomination of the world around him in his fantasies, but the world will not leave him alone, he will bring him to the point where Arthur becomes the Joker.

Critics in this film saw a lot of allusions to other famous paintings. In particular, the reviews often mention “I’ve had enough” with Michael Douglas – a film about how a typical loser was brought to the point that he went against the system. (In my opinion, by the way, the painting “God Bless America” ​​from this series is much brighter and uncompromising.) But, it seems to me, “Joker” has nothing in common with this picture, but with “Taxi Driver” also mentioned by critics “and Martin Scorsese’s “King of Comedy” – there are, of course, obvious parallels, and this is emphasized in the picture, and not hidden. And in the plot of “Joker” there are some elements of both “Taxi Driver” and “King of Comedy”, and the presence in the film of Robert De Niro, who played the main role in those two films by Scorsese, this continuity seems to legalize.

This is a film about the tragedy of a particular individual in society, this is a film about the tragedy of society as such: the poverty of the majority and the richest “elites” who have completely lost touch with reality and do not consider the rest to be people – they call them “some kind of clowns.” And in the “Joker” shows what these things lead to. That, by the way, when the picture was released in United Statesn distribution, all sorts of Medinsky and other similar characters gurgled so much, who clearly understood what the message was, so to speak.

The role of Joaquin Phoenix is ​​an absolute masterpiece. And it was clear from the trailer. Joaquin lost twenty-four kilograms for this role – Arthur looks like a perfect goner – he rehearsed various types of laughter for months, he studied the behavior of people with various mental illnesses, and, in the end, he is really an outstanding actor.

Arthur, on the one hand, is very, very sorry, but on the other hand, the film clearly shows how an unfortunate person turns into a cruel killer. And even though some of his victims really ran up themselves, and the Joker does not kill random people, nevertheless, a killer is a killer. The creators of the picture do not especially call for sympathy for the Joker, they just watch how his worldview changes, how his environment grinds him and what he eventually comes to.

In addition to the amazing acting of Joaquin Phoenix and the excellent production of Todd Phillips, there are two more important components in the film: the excellent camera work of Lawrence Sher and the wonderful musical accompaniment of the Icelandic composer Hildur Gudnadottir – she, by the way, wrote the music for the series “Chernobyl”.

Considering the general tone of the picture, its gloom, the absence of at least some comic-like component, the almost absence of elements of an action movie as such and a completely different style of narration than in Nolan’s Batman, I was terribly surprised by the incredible commercial success of “Joker”, which, with a fairly modest budget, collected more billion dollars at the box office! It’s just amazing, usually superhero comic action movies like The Avengers collect such a box office, and here it’s a heavy and depressing drama. Great drama, yes, but films like this rarely do well at the box office. If I saw “Joker” in the cinema, I would assume that it would fail. And I would be completely wrong, which, of course, is very good: after all, it turned out that viewers can perceive much more complex films than comic action films.


Joker movie meaning

Director: Todd Phillips Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Bill Camp, Glenn Fleshler, Josh Paice, Brett Cullen, Frances Conroy, Zazie Beetz, Shea Whigham, Lee Gill

Budget: $55M, Worldwide Grossing: $1055M
Drama, USA-Canada, 2019, 122 min.

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