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FEATURING: Vera Drew, Nathan Faustyn, Lynne Downey, Kane Distler, David Liebe Hart, Griffin Kramer

PLOT: While on the pathway to becoming an Anti-Comedienne extraordinaire, the People’s Joker confronts her troubled past and her chaotic present to attain self acceptance—and dethrone the domineering normies plaguing Gotham City.

COMMENTS: It possibly says something about me that, when Vera Drew mentions early in the film about her revelatory experience “seeing the world’s favorite orphan,” I immediately thought, “Annie?” But that doesn’t say what you might think. Because I have my particularities. So does Vera. So does everyone. This film is a personal anecdote, framed within a (veerrry) loose construct of plot. The specifics of the fictional battle are moot anyway, as whatever narrative through-line is there merely acts a metaphor. Do not misunderstand me, however: this is an effervescent experience, with swirling bubbles of pathos and confession perpetually subsumed with self-aware humor.

Vera Drew has made a stylish movie, and an all-too-uncommon one. Heavy use of CGI, saturation, and stop-motion—sections hark back to flash animation of yore—combine with trashy-classy costuming for the villains (comedians and misfits all), maintaining an unreal comic book tone from start to finish. We enter Harlequin the Joker’s (Vera Drew) world through a montage of fake, early-’90s-baked advertisements and talk show clips. Vera’s narration is with us throughout, as she provides her take on the tragic life she led until she became Vera Drew, or Joker the Harlequin, or, ultimately, just “the Harlequin”: an ambition vaguely sensed when first she saw a somewhat notorious superhero film.

The motley crew of disaffected snarks who assemble in “The Red Hood Playhouse” have their Anti-comedy acts (comedy proper, in this film’s world, has been outlawed), and Vera’s act evolves from rambling obtusities to huffing Smylex on stage and guffawing mercilessly as other performers recount their own tragic back stories. But this manages somehow not to be cruel, but instead self-deprecatory. She bonds through these confessions, as the film itself connects with the viewer as a confession of misery, and hope. Her awareness broadens—particularly when she begins her romantic involvement with Mr J, a trans-man—and as she copes, both diegetic and non-diegetically, we come to understand how she is able to look back with such a probing and smiling eye.

Among the many admissions in The People’s Joker, there’s a tiny, joking aside that struck me personally, but I shall keep that to myself. The larger point is that everyone has their own history, with their own desires forming and formed by it. Gotham is, of course, the real world, writ onscreen as a ian trash parade. Vera learns, slowly and painfully—but certainly—that we must deal with reality, starting with who we are ourselves.  Presuming someone is not harming others, you should accept how they wish to be; this can go a long way to preventing them from hurting themselves.


“a weird little movie that everyone’s talking about…very experimental and odd…”–Christy Lemine and Alonso Duralde, Breakfast All Day (contemporaneous, video review)

Where to watch The People's Joker

2 thoughts on “CAPSULE: THE PEOPLE’S JOKER (2022)”

    1. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.

      I’ve recently wondered whether it should qualify for Apocrypha, having been largely focused during my viewing on What it was doing as opposed to How it was doing it.

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