Lady Gaga’s ‘Joker: Folie a Deux’ Trailer Review: She Looks Spectacular

Fine, I’ll admit it: I was dead wrong.

Let me clarify. There was a time, not too long ago, when Lady Gaga signing onto a Joker sequel was unfathomable. Years of fighting to prove her talent and worth to the general public culminated in the musician and actor being nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her role in 2018’s A Star Is Born. (It was a nomination she lost, only to pick up the Best Original Song trophy later that evening.) After Gaga’s silver screen follow-up, House of Gucci, turned out to be a less-than-ideal vehicle for her star power, joining another big Hollywood production could be a risk. And when rumors about her joining the sequel to 2019’s controversial standalone Joker film began to swirl, many people–including myself—thought Gaga’s participation was incomprehensible. It was so strange and unlikely to me that I even wrote an open letter back in 2022, half-jokingly begging her not to take the role. With the amount of contention surrounding the first Joker film, it seemed unwise for Gaga to associate herself with the franchise.

But time is a funny thing. In the two years since it was announced Gaga would join Phoenix in the Joker sequel, Joker: Folie à Deux, Gaga has done quite a few things I wouldn’t have expected. The first and foremost would be teaming up with pharmaceutical overlords Pfizer to hock migraine pills, which I used to think was something relegated to Khloé Kardashian. Gaga, ever the LGBTQ+ activist, also spent most of last summer quiet after a season of legislative attacks on trans and gender nonconforming put the health and safety of the queer community at jeopardy—a silence she later (vaguely) apologized for. While these haven’t been my favorite surprises that Gaga has pulled on the public in her long career, she certainly keeps us on her toes. That much has once again been proven too with the release of the first trailer for Joker: Folie à Deux. I’ll say it because I mean it: This movie looks really damn good.

In the trailer, we once again meet Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck, now locked away in Arkham Asylum after his murderous rampage ignited Gotham City’s underbelly of criminals and sent them into the streets. It’s at Arkham where Joker meets Gaga’s Harley Quinn who, blessedly, is not doing Harley’s typical bratty-by-way-of-Long Island accent. “I’m nobody,” Harley says to the Joker in a voiceover, while a shot of her putting a finger gun to her head and pulling the trigger, laughing, plays. “I haven’t done anything with my life like you have.” What follows is a montage of staggeringly constructed shots, far from the dimly lit greens and browns that filled the first film. Four colorful umbrellas flank Arthur at Arkham, a clear nod to 1964’s Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and that’s only the first of several cinematic references.

The montage appears to jump between Joker and Harley’s delusions. As they tango in the real-life Gotham city streets, they envision themselves twirling together on rooftops lit by the night sky. They’re lit on a massive show stage, with lights reading “JOKER & HARLEY”—apparently, after assassinating Robert de Niro’s talk show host character in the first film, Joker has made a King of Comedy-like twist and secured his own variety hour (at least in his head). “I’ll tell you what’s changed,” Arthur tells his clinical psychologist in a scene set before he and Harley ostensibly escape. “I’m not alone anymore.”

Amidst all of it, there’s Gaga, holding each shot of the trailer that she’s in with as much gravity as she’s held her first two big screen ventures. Her Harley looks defiant and self-assured, bolstered by Joker encouraging her maddest side. She stomps up courthouse steps to throngs of cheering fans, smirking in her clown makeup. She smears lipstick on her face, dances in a sequined fringe dress, twirls down the twisting aisle toward her nuptials, and keeps a gun drawn at her new boyfriend. Unlike the typical Joker-Harley dynamic, this looks to be a marriage of equally demented minds, with each one holding their own twisted power.

A photo still of Lady Gaga and Joaquin Phoenix

Lady Gaga and Joaquin Phoenix

Warner Bros.

“I want to see the real you,” Gaga’s Harley says at the end of the teaser, before drawing a lipstick smile on the glass that separates her from Joker inside Arkham. Joker leans to his right, aligns his mouth with the smile, and pairs it with his own perturbing grin. It’s a beautifully blocked shot, a memorable kicker for a surprisingly excellent trailer. Joker: Folie à Deux looks far better than anyone could have expected when we initially heard that Lady Gaga might be throwing herself into a Joker sequel.

What’s more, it seems like an ambitious new take, and not just a simple continuation. Joker was was very much the watered down sum of its parts; Taxi Driver meets Batman was never going to be a particularly novel concept. Folie à Deux, a jukebox musical that reportedly has at least 15 musical numbers, recycles this, giving us La La Land meets Batman. (Or, maybe in Joker’s case, Ha Ha Land). There is, however, already so much more to chew on in this teaser trailer alone. The sequel looks like a grand spectacle that could take this story to new and fascinating heights for the first time, And with Gaga’s powerhouse voice—and sure to be wackadoo press tour—ahead of us, maybe us doubters will be the ones looking like clowns when Joker: Folie à Deux lands in theaters Oct. 4, 2024.

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