The People’s Joker

There are three aspects to THE PEOPLE’S JOKER that help make up the whole. There is the movie it is on the surface, the movie it’s trying to be, and the movie it represents to the audience it’s trying to reach. From a critical perspective, I think I’m only qualified to examine the first two of these. As a relatively straight, cis, white male, I’m very aware that this movie wasn’t speaking to me directly. That doesn’t dilute the importance of the message that it’s trying to convey to the audience that it’s trying to reach, who will get SO much from this film. An autobiography disguised as a comic book movie is a fantastic way for director Vera Drew to illustrate her coming-out/coming-of-age tale of repressed childhood and blooming early adulthood mixed with all of the feelings and uncertainties that everyone faces as they try to discover their identity in the world. It’s relatable and alien at the same time.

Certainly, there are movies that were formative to my childhood, but I don’t think there was one that influenced me the way that many queer-coded films influence young queer audiences. THE PEOPLE’S JOKER will go down alongside THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW and PINK FLAMINGOS as the film future alt-queer kids flock to as they rebel against a heteronormative world that fears and castigates non-conformity. This movie clearly wasn’t made for me, but I’m glad that it was made, as I think that truly, this film could save someone’s life.

To review a movie like THE PEOPLE’S JOKER fairly, I needed to throw out a lot of the baseline characteristics of how I judge movies and separate them into two boxes. On the surface, this movie has issues, the acting is sub-par, and the comic book elements are derivative. All of that said, the story is well-structured and if you look beyond the crude 2D animation and the paper mache set pieces, you’ll see a lot of talent put into the edit and overall composition of this movie. Is it really low budget? Or is it “stylized”? Honestly, I’m not sure. Vera Drew and co-writer Bri LeRose’s story is the thing that makes this movie rise to the top. Beyond the Batman imagery and past the counter-culture messaging lies a beautiful story of a human being just trying to exist and be seen for who they are. It’s a love story, but not necessarily between two people, but of a person learning to love themselves despite an upbringing and a relationship that forces trauma upon them.

Most independent films don’t have a long life after they’re released into the wild. Whether on the festival circuit or in theaters, most movies have a shelf life after which they’ll wither and die, destined for bargain bins or worse. THE PEOPLE’S JOKER won’t suffer that same fate. This movie is going to have academic papers written about it for years.

The People’s Joker
The People's Joker | April 14, 2023 (United States) Summary: An aspiring clown grappling with her gender identity combats a fascistic caped crusader.
Countries: United StatesLanguages: English

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