The first trailer for director Todd Phillips' Joker has arrived, and the Joaquin Phoenix-led origin story looks, in a word, terrifying. Here are some of the small details you may have missed in one of the most interesting trailers of the year so far.
Struggling comedian Arthur Fleck is first seen sitting in the office of his therapist, who asks him if it helps to have someone to talk to. He doesn't answer. His first spoken lines in the trailer, heard in voiceover as he makes his lonely way up a set of stone steps, makes reference to his mother.
A part-time clown and struggling comedian, Fleck appears to have taken her advice to heart, but there are clues that their relationship isn't necessarily the healthiest.
Fleck is seen bathing his mother as if she were a child and dancing with her as if she were his wife. These are the only times she appears in the spot and the only scenes in which Fleck looks genuinely happy. It can be implied from the therapist's question that Fleck would never share his inner darkness with his mother. There are also hints that his mother might actually be the reason for Fleck's troubles. He appears to be filling a caretaker role here.
The specter of mental illness looms large over the trailer. Early on, Fleck is seen scribbling in a notebook. The page is labeled "Jokes," but the sentiment scrawled out in increasingly large letters at its bottom isn't particularly funny.
It may be that Fleck's mother's own struggles with mental illness will have a part to play here, further suggested by the fact that he is seen visiting Arkham Hospital, where he is visibly disturbed as a patient sharing his elevator thrashes about on a stretcher. Who is he visiting there, if not dear old Mom? The very next shot sees him in the audience at a comedy club called Pogo's, incidentally, the stage name of John Wayne Gacy, where we hear the Joker's singularly unhinged cackle coming out of Fleck's mouth for the first time. Could his mother's decline as a result of mental illness be what drives him over the edge?
Watch the video to see more small details in the Joker trailer only true fans noticed.
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A formative relationship | 0:14
A recurring theme | 1:12
A sad clown | 1:58
Meet the Waynes | 3:04
Interesting casting choice | 4:09
Looking sharp | 5:28