“The People’s Joker”


Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10), TMDB.com (6/10)

Wow – what can one say about this wild, woolly, wigged-out spoof of superhero movies in which the protagonist is an edgy, crusading transgender harlequin comedian fighting the power structure of a corrupt, narrow-minded society? That description alone is pretty wacky in itself, but, as the finished product shows, its depiction on screen is even more bizarre and outrageous. Writer-actor-director Vera Drew’s debut feature is simultaneously an exercise in the outlandish that’s part high camp, part in-your-face irreverence, part alternative sexuality manifesto and part love letter to the Batman mythology turned on its ear. This story of a small-town boy’s transgender awakening as a springboard to finding a new life in the wilds of Gotham City’s underground comedy scene tells an off-the-wall, often-frenetically paced, sometimes-sentimental tale that defies conventional classification. Its inventive mix of live action, motion capture photography and animation serves up a unique viewing experience unlike anything most audiences have ever seen, including among most seasoned cinephiles. It also delivers some positively scathing one-liners and wicked sight gags that will leave many thinking “I can’t believe they just did that!” Collectively, it makes for the kind of picture that will likely earn this production cult movie status and a guaranteed spot on midnight show movie lineups. Despite its many inspired cinematic innovations, however, the narrative occasionally tends toward overzealous self-indulgence and cryptic ideologies that appear to be employed simply to carry the story forward, making for a production that seems to be trying too hard just to see how much of a stunned reaction it can get from the audience. It has also come under some scrutiny for pushing the limits of fair use issues and acceptable propriety boundaries, elements that raised the eyebrows of some critics and of those who created the source materials from which this work draws (but that have also subsequently added to the picture’s undeniable allure). Nevertheless, if you’re looking for something that’s part DC Comics, part John Waters, part “Liquid Sky” (1982), part “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975), and part exploration of the unknown and untried, this one might be right up your alley. But, if you’re put off by such an eclectic blend of satire, social commentary, visual imagery and heretical rumination, don’t say you weren’t warned.