One of the questions people have after watching Joker is, “What happened to Zazie Beetz‘s character?” Without spoiling anything yet, we’ll just say that her fate is left somewhat ambiguous in the final cut of the movie. But now director and co-writer Todd Phillips is coming in to provide a definitive answer about her fate.
One of the scariest scenes in Joker is when Beetz’s character Sophie puts her daughter to bed and emerges into her apartment’s living room, only to discover Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) sitting on her couch. The film reveals that the romantic relationship we’ve seen between those two characters was completely in Arthur’s head, and Sophie is terrified that he might hurt her or her daughter. Arthur leaves the room, but because the movie never explicitly shows what happens to Sophie (she’s never seen on screen again), it has left some people wondering if Arthur may have killed her.
Fear not, because Phillips says she lives. In an interview with IndieWire, he explains:
“He doesn’t kill her. Definitively. As the filmmaker and the writer, I’m saying he doesn’t kill her. We like the idea that it’s almost like a little bit of a litmus test for an audience to say, ‘OK, well how crazy is he?’ And most people that I’ve spoken to think he didn’t kill her because they understand this idea that he’s only killed people that did him wrong, so to speak. That have fucked him over. She had nothing to do with it. Most people understood that he was living by – even as a villain – a certain code. We thought when he kisses Gary on the head, the little actor, and he runs off, he clearly has a code he lives by. Of course he didn’t kill this woman down the hall and her child.”
He goes on to say that he cut a scene later in the movie in which Sophie is watching the Murray Franklin episode where Joker shoots the host on the air, and that the reason he removed it was because the entire movie is told through Arthur’s perspective and it would “literally change the DNA of the film” if he shifted to someone else’s POV as they witnessed those events. Makes sense.
That said, we should point out that a filmmaker and writer can say whatever they want about a movie after the fact, but if it’s not within the text of the film, it doesn’t quite “count” in the same way as the audience seeing something that’s literally depicted on screen. Sure, they’re the ones who made the movie, but once it goes out into the world, the way people interpret it is not in their hands anymore. I think Phillips’ justification makes sense, but if he didn’t want people possibly misinterpreting Sophie’s fate, he could have chosen to frame her into the background of the shot when Arthur leaves her place to eliminate any confusion. There’s enough edge and intensity in Phoenix’s performance during this downward spiral in the film for the idea that he snapped and killed her to be conceivable, so I understand how people might walk away thinking the worst.
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