Dear Joaquin Phoenix, thank you for teaching lessons in life
There’s always pressure to fill someone’s shoes. You have to make them fit. Many actors played Joker before you- Jack Nicholson showed us the quirky side, Jared Leto was, well… a mistake. And then there was one man, who asked us ‘Why so serious?’ and set the bar so high, we never wanted anyone to get past it. Each of those actors left their mark. But you, you made Heath Ledger proud.
I watched you in ‘Her’. The lonely writer with too many words, but too little to say. You fell in love with an operating system. (Scarlet Johansson’s voice but still.) There was a quiet storm inside your character. I felt every bit of it. And then came the trailer of Joker. The world was skeptical. But something in me knew you’d pull it off.
It was tough to watch you play Arthur Fleck. There were times when I’d see you cry for help through your eyes. Your uncontrollable laugh so loud, sadness would almost flinch. And your smile so wide, it hid all the pain life had thrown against you. There were times I almost wanted to leap into the screen and hug you. But then I had to remind myself- This is just a movie.
The Joker is not a role model. He never was, never will be. His actions aren’t justified, and neither were they right. But before the make-up and purple suit came on, before the blood-smirked smile formed shape, and before he got crowned as the Clown Prince of Crime, maybe the Joker was human. Maybe he was Arthur. And you made us feel for him.
I watched an interview where you said you never watched any past versions of the Joker. You wanted to create him from scratch. Meet him like it was the first time. And when I saw you spiral into the character on screen, it was nothing less than a sheer masterclass in acting.
The world isn’t kind. You showed us. Every word you spoke on screen, seemed like someone who’s trying to cope but is failing. You made the role yours. And rightly, it is now yours to keep.
So while the awards and standing ovations will come, reviews will say good and bad things, and comparisons will be made, know that you’ve made your mark, Joaquin. Put on a happy face (for real). And smile. It’s your time to.