Joker (2019)

In 1981, party clown, social outsider and aspiring stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck lives with his mother, Penny, in Gotham City. Gotham’s class society is rife with crime and unemployment, leaving segments of the population disenfranchised and impoverished. Arthur suffers from a medical disorder that causes him to laugh at inappropriate times, and depends on social services for medication. After a gang of delinquents attacks Arthur in an alley, his co-worker, Randall, gives him a gun for protection. Arthur meets his neighbor, single mother Sophie Dumond, and invites her to his upcoming stand-up comedy show at a nightclub.

While entertaining at a children’s hospital, Arthur’s gun falls out of his pocket. Randall lies that Arthur bought the gun himself and Arthur is fired by his agent. On the subway, still in his clown makeup, Arthur is beaten by three drunken Wayne Enterprises businessmen who were harassing a female passenger; he shoots two in self-defense and executes the third. The murders are condemned by billionaire mayoral candidate Thomas Wayne, who labels those envious of more successful people as “clowns”. Demonstrations against Gotham’s rich begin, with protesters donning clown masks in Arthur’s image. Funding cuts shutter the social service program, leaving Arthur without medication.

Arthur has difficulty delivering jokes for his comedy routine, but nevertheless, receives a standing ovation from the audience. After a date with Sophie, Arthur returns home and intercepts a letter written by Penny to Thomas Wayne, alleging that he is Thomas’s illegitimate son, and immediately berates his mother for hiding the truth. At Wayne Manor, Arthur talks to Thomas’s young son, Bruce, but flees after a scuffle with butler Alfred Pennyworth. Following a visit from two Gotham City Police Department detectives investigating Arthur’s involvement in the train murders, Penny suffers a stroke and is hospitalized. While Arthur stays with his mother in an emergency room, his childhood idol, talk show host Murray Franklin, mocks Arthur on TV by showing clips from the comedy routine on his show.

At a public event, Arthur confronts Thomas, who tells him that Penny is delusional and not his biological mother, and Arthur begins to laugh before getting punched by Thomas. In denial, Arthur visits Arkham State Hospital and steals Penny’s case file; the file says Penny adopted Arthur as a baby and allowed her abusive boyfriend to harm them both. However, Penny alleged that Thomas used his influence to fabricate the adoption and commit her to the asylum to hide their affair. Distraught, Arthur returns home and enters Sophie’s apartment unannounced. Frightened, Sophie tells him to leave; their previous encounters were apparently delusions. The following day, Arthur goes to the hospital and kills Penny, suffocating her with a pillow.

Arthur is invited to appear on Murray’s show due to the unexpected popularity of his comedy routine’s clips. As he prepares, Arthur is visited by Randall and fellow ex-colleague Gary. Arthur murders Randall for revenge, but leaves Gary unharmed for treating him well in the past. En route to the studio, Arthur is pursued by the two detectives onto a train filled with some of the clown protesters. One detective accidentally shoots a protester and incites a riot, allowing Arthur to escape.

Before the show goes live, Arthur requests that Murray introduce him as Joker, a reference to Murray’s previous mockery. Arthur walks out to applause, but the mood quickly changes when he tells morbid jokes, confesses to be the killer from the train murders, and rants about how society abandons and harasses the disenfranchised. Arthur then fatally shoots Murray and is arrested as riots break out across all of Gotham. One rioter corners the Wayne family in an alley and murders Thomas and his wife Martha, sparing Bruce.[a] Arthur watches the city go up in chaos from the window of the police car and laughs in satisfaction. Rioters in an ambulance crash into the police car and free Arthur; he dances before the crowd and smears the blood on his face into a smile. At Arkham, Arthur laughs to himself about a joke and tells his psychiatrist she would not understand it. He runs from orderlies, leaving a trail of bloodied footprints.

Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Todd Phillips
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz
Runtime: 122 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures, Scott Silver

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