(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Joker.)
In the final moments of Joker, after being hailed as a hero by his rioting followers (one of whom kills Thomas and Martha Wayne, which I’m sure won’t have an impact on their young son Bruce), Arthur Fleck is sent to Arkham Asylum. He can’t stop laughing. “What’s so funny?” his psychiatrist asks him. “Just thinking of a joke,” one that she wouldn’t get. We never learn what the joke is, either, although there’s been speculation that the joke is on us, the audience, for thinking what we witnessed actually happened; maybe it was all in Arthur’s head? If The Dark Knight taught us anything, it’s that Batman doesn’t wear hockey pants, and that Joker is not the most reliable narrator.
Todd Phillips, who wrote Joker, has said “there’s a lot of ways you could look at this movie. You could look at it and go, this is just one of his multiple-choice stories. None of it happened. I don’t want to say what it is. But a lot of people I’ve shown it to have said, oh, I get it — he’s just made up a story. The whole movie is the joke. It’s this thing this guy in Arkham Asylum concocted. He might not even be the Joker.” Maybe we can get a clear answer by going straight to the source: Phillips’ screenplay (available here).
The key section:
He’s sitting across from an overworked HOSPITAL DOCTOR (50’s), African American woman. Somehow it’s the exact same room Joker imagined his mother was in some 30 years ago. The room and the doctor also look vaguely similar to the social worker and her office in the opening scene.
The “somehow” and “vaguely similar” phrasings are doing a lot of the work, but that paragraph (which, as Digital Spy notes, isn’t from the final draft, but “so it would be pretty close to what they started filming with”) tips the scale towards a dream-like “Arthur made it up.” Then again, why would he go out of his way to turn the Sophie reveal a twist, as he’d presumably want to continue the lie? Or maybe it’s both! Phillips won’t ever say for sure, of course, so it’s up for the audience to decide. Joke’s on us.
(Via Digital Spy)