We’re all in agreement that ‘Joker’ is amazing, right? Right? (I’ll take the resounding silence as a yes). It’s a brilliant character piece that deals with mental health and societal issues that gives us a view on Gotham that we’ve never had before. It’s both parts dramatic and nuanced, brutal and subtle all at once.
As I wrote in my review, ‘Joker’ is more than a standard comic book villain back story – it’s a piece of cinematic art. That’s why it’s worth giving it another watch – it’s filled with so many subtle details that expand on the world Phillip’s has created – that you may not have noticed the first time around.
*Just a heads up, there’s gonna be spoilers ahead*
Arthur gains control of his laugh as the movie goes on
At the start of the movie – one of the very first times we meet Arthur, he’s laughing endlessly, due to the neurological condition inflicted from the abuse he endured as a child. By the end of the movie, he’s able to keep it under control. By the end of the movie – once Arthur’s accepted he thrives in chaos – when he’s interviewed by Murray Franklin, he has his laugh under control. He laughs, sure, but it’s not the unstoppable, choking laughter that has crippled him before.
It shows that as the movie has gone on, Arthur finds comfort in the chaos he’s created. The mundane, day-to-day life only made him miserable, out-of-place and discarded; but somewhere in the darkness, in the evil he’s ensued – he’s managed to find some form of control over his life. It’s beautiful storytelling, even when its steeped in the darkness of the Joker’s terror.
Those big ass super rats
We all saw them, right? Hiding in the corners of the screen, scurrying out of sight, mentioned on the news and on the radio? Super rats. Gotham city is infested with them.
I mean, that’s cool world building and all, but what does that actually mean? Well, in my view – it’s a metaphor. As the city deteriorates, with social care being cut as the rich grow richer; the rats represent what happens to things when they go unloved. Rats, on their own, don’t pose much of a threat. When they’re left – along with the garbage that’s been abandoned on the streets – they evolve into mutant rats. It’s a metaphor for the issues with the mentally ill. Gotham City is ignoring its most vulnerable people – and it will cause a problem for the city.
That weird fridge scene
Remember that time Arthur emptied his entire fridge, climbed in, shut the door, and that was that? Rando. One interpretation of the scene is that Arthur went in there to laugh manically alone – thus not to disturb his neighbours. Maybe it’s just a sign that he’s slowly losing his mind. Maybe he finds comfort in the cold. Nobody will truly know for sure, but it surely adds to his deteriorating mindset.
The use of humour
Did you notice that Arthur was only funny when he wasn’t trying to be? Walking head-first into the door at the hospital brought out a huge laugh in my theatre. There’s also the scene where Arthur’s just murdered Randall, leaving poor Gary unable to reach the latch to open the door. Again, more laughs from the crowd. When he’s trying to be funny, though – at his stand-up or writing jokes, it simply falls flat. Oh, the irony of it all.
Juxtaposing dark, serious and disturbing scenes with the occasional splash of comedy was a genius move that allowed the movie to breathe, just a little.
It also shows that Arthur is unable to pursue what he wants. What he intends to do – whether it’s becoming a stand-up comic, a party clown or finding love from a father – he fails at. When he reacts on a guttural, primal level – and becomes a murderous psychopath – he begins to find his groove. Everything else in his life has been met with defeat and rejection… so he turns to murder and violence.
Okay, so this is really obvious and you most likely did notice this, but I thought I’d include it in the list anyhow. Every time Arthur returns home, we see him climb the seemingly endless stairs; splashed in shades of black and grey. His body language is beaten down, defeated, downtrodden from the seemingly cruel world of Gotham city.
When Arthur snaps, though, and truly embraces the chaos he’s created in both his life and in Gotham – he dances down the stairs. It shows his descent into insanity – into murder and violence – no longer resisting it, but embracing it. Enjoying it. It’s a powerful little slice of cinematography, and I am here for it.
Arthur doesn’t eat a single thing
Throughout the whole film, we don’t see Arthur eat. Not once. Not a thing. I mean sure, we don’t see him use the toilet either, but I’m pretty sure he did that at some point.
Still though, it’s symbolic. Phoenix lost 52 pounds to play Arthur Fleck – so clearly it was a directorial decision. It shows he lack of humanity, matching his skeletal, unusual form we see when he’s hunched over, attempting to repair his clown shoes. Added to the fact that he’s experienced horrendous childhood trauma, and that his fridge was pretty much empty when he clambered inside of it – it’s a clear telltale sign of someone who’s struggling.
He don’t need no damn mask
When Arthur unintentionally causes city-wide riots (oops!), the camera lingers on his abandoned clown mask, left in the unemptied trash. Arthur’s rejecting masks of all kind – rejecting the notion that he’s got to put on a happy face for society, to put on a mask each and every day to try to pretend to be someone he’s not.
No, at that point in the movie Arthur has given up trying, he’s given up pretending. He’s slipped into insanity, and he’s not hiding it for a second longer.
There’s three different laughs the Joker uses
We all noticed the iconic Joker laugh, brought on from his head injuries, the one that almost made him choke. But what about the other two laughs he has?
The first is his normal, actual laugh. It’s rare, but it’s in the movie every now and then – primarily in his imagined scenarios.
The other is his false laugh – the one he uses to try to fit in – another futile attempt at joining the cold society that surrounds him. Again, it shows Arthur’s isolation – his detachment from everyone else – and his inability to feel true joy. Phoenix’s brilliant portrayal in showcasing three distinct laughs should be enough to earn him an Oscar in itself.
And there’s this little Easter Egg
Joker’s down-to-earth social worker, Debra Kane, is a subtle little nudge-nudge wink-wink nod to eager eyed DC fans. The surname, Kane, is an homage to Batman’s co-creator, Bob Kane.
He never laughs in his daydreams
Finally, Arthur never laughs when he’s in his imaginary scenarios. When he’s on the Murray show, nor when he’s “dating” his neighbour, never does the nervous laughter take ahold of him – a telltale sign that he isn’t entirely steeped in reality. It’s these little nuances that make this film truly shine and show that it was crafted with care.
Aaaaand that’s it for all the little details that I noticed in ‘Joker’. What about you, eager-eyes viewers – did you spot anything that I may have missed? Let me know in the comments below!
Be sure to check out my review of the ‘Joker’ movie. Or, for more on DC, check out my reasoning for Zatanna getting her own DC movie!