Chance Gibbs

I am not a person who has to see a movie immediately when it comes out.

I can wait a while.

I am not a person who loves super hero movies and has to pet every cash cow Marvel or DC turn out to pasture.

I can see one every now and again.

However, when I first got wind that Joaquin Phoenix, one of the greatest living actors whom I personally became a fan of when he played Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line,” was stepping into the Joker suit… I KNEW I would have my butt in the seat the minute that film hit the big screen.

So, when “Joker” opened this past weekend, my fiancé and I went to our usual spot – Alamo Draft House in Denton – and prepared to watch what we were guessing would be the best Joker yet, and even went so far as to say it’d be BETTER than Heath Ledger’s version for which he won an Oscar for after his death.

Never in our lives have we been more correct.

From the minute Joaquin came on that screen until the minute he exited it, we were hooked.

Silent.

Still.

Amazed.

Never in my life have I seen an actor command a role as perfectly and convincingly as Phoenix does in “Joker” and if he doesn’t win the Oscar for Best Actor, then I will never watch the Academy Awards again.

His ability to portray Joker’s ascent into madness was like seeing it physically happen in person and honestly, not wanting to stop it.

He grabbed us and took us on his journey from an abused and neglected boy left chained to a radiator to the inspiration for a movement seeking to topple the City of Gotham’s elite.

While the film is a triumph of acting, it is also an uncomfortable look in to the mind of someone who was treated so harshly throughout their entire life.

“Joker” isn’t a glamorous tale about some made up city where a man dressed in a bat suit saves the world in spite of an angry clown. It’s a lesson to us all that people are different, and we should be kind to everyone.

Joker didn’t grow up murdering people.

He grew up Arthur Fleck, a person who wanted so desperately for people to just be nice to him, but was never given that courtesy.

While “Joker” is of course a work of fiction, it’s not too far off from things we see today.

I was bullied growing up. I think it’s safe to say we all were, but thankfully not all of us collapse and turn to violence because of it.

We’re the lucky ones.

Many people inflict harm on others or themselves because of the mental and physical abuse inflicted on them, and that’s “Joker.”

In this film, he’s a villain, but also a hero that you root for.

All of the bad things he does to people are done as an act of revenge, and I never once felt bad for any of them.

The emotions you’ll feel after you watch it are ones you’ll likely have to think about and digest before you can accurately judge the film.

It took me a couple of days.

What I concluded is that “Joker” is an examination of the mind.

All of us have a Joker inside.

And sadly, for some with untreated mental health issues, he can take over.

If you’re being bullied, tell someone.

If you see someone being bullied, tell someone.

If you need to talk to someone, tell someone.

Mental health is not a joke.

Chance Gibbs is an actor and writer living in the Dallas area. He’s appeared in numerous television shows, films, professional and community theater, and TV commercials, and has been a contributor to news publications since 2007.

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