JOKER – Review by Susan Granger

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Ostensibly, this is the ultra-bleak origin story of DC Comics’ super-villain and Batman’s arch nemesis, known as the Joker.

Saddled with a long familial history of insanity, which he shares with his deranged mother (Frances Conroy) who tried to burn him alive as a child, troubled, tortured Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), who is plagued with uncontrollable laughter, has endured years of social isolation and negligence, falling through the cracks in the mental health system.

Living in her grubby Gotham City apartment, Arthur’s common bond with his mother is avidly watching Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), a nightly TV talk-show host. As an aspiring stand-up comedian, known as The Joker, clown-faced Arthur eventually lands an appearance on Franklin’s show, seeking attention by bringing a gun on-stage with him.

While Hollywood has a long history with raging psychopaths, anti-heroes and vigilante violence and I firmly believe in freedom of artistic expression, in our current culture, real-life mass shootings have become more and more prevalent.

As of September this year, there have been 283 mass shootings in the United States, nearly all perpetrated by angry young men filled with previously repressed rage, many of whom have posted YouTube manifestos..

“Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” the Joker asks rhetorically near the film’s conclusion.

Directed by Todd Phillips, who co-wrote the uneven, character-study screenplay with Scott Silver, the blood-spewing violence is vividly photographed by Lawrence Sher and ominously orchestrated by Hildur Gudnadottir.

In perhaps the sickest, most subtle twist, a pivotal scene in which Phoenix’s Joker dances down a long flight of steps as he transforms into his sinister alter-ego, features disgraced glam/rocker Gary Glitter’s 1972 song “Rock and Roll Part 2.” Despite Glitter’s 16-year jail sentence in the UK for attacking three girls, this pedophile, whose real name is Paul Gadd, will be raking in the royalties.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Joker” is a brutally nihilistic, morally irresponsible 4, glamorizing and glorifying a nasty, maniacal villain, leaving one to wonder if a reel threat could inspire a real threat.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.