"Don't expect a happy ending," the librarian warned me. I reassured him that I was in no way expecting anything happy in the movie I had just checked out, then I cheerfully walked home, a copy of Joker (Warner Bros. 2019) tucked in my bag. When this movie first came out, I was unsure if I wanted to see it. It was highly controversial and extremely dark, I knew. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to handle it. After hearing about the movie from some friends, I decided that I'd watch it....when it came out on DVD. Finally, after all these months, it was time.
I hunkered down in front of the screen as the movie began, and soon was overwhelmed by a feeling of sadness. I had expected a dark movie, but I had not been expecting a movie that would grip my heart. As I watched the tragedy of aspiring comedian Arthur Fleck (spectacularly portrayed by Phoenix Joaquin), I was struck by how human he was. Other renditions of the Clown Prince of Crime portray him as the physical manifestation of sheer evil and insanity, or as some kind of caricature. However, as Arthur struggles to work, devotedly care for his mother, and simply live in the face of poverty, mental illness, and discrimination, he becomes someone we can recognize. Someone that, perhaps, we've passed on the street or seen in the library.
As the credits began rolling at the conclusion of this film, I found myself thinking about how this movie doesn't have a "happy ending"--so we, the viewers, should work to bring about a happy ending in our communities. A fiction movie, Joker follows the decline of the man who becomes an infamous villain. Yet, this movie tells a true story, one that plays out in countless cities across America.