Mental Health · Movies

What I thought of Joker: Film Review

Joker was one of the most anticipated movies of the year. The Joker is arguably DC’s most beloved character, let alone being their most beloved villain! There was no way I wasn’t going to be sharing my thoughts on this film and writing a review! Here’s my Joker movie review:

Dark, unsettling, and gritty, this is exactly the backstory you would expect one of pop-culture’s most infamous villains to have.

Violence, mental health, and abuse feature in this film and review, this is your warning to click away now if that content triggers you.

The Plot

joker arthur fleck

Joker is set in 1981 and follows the disenfranchised failed comedian, Arthur Fleck, as he struggles to survive in an impoverished unruly Gotham. Suffering from mental illness, Arthur relies on social services for therapy and medication, and has a condition that causes him to laugh uncontrollably against his will. The more abuse and betrayal life throws at Arthur, the more Joker comes out

We’ve never seen a real origin story for Joker before, in fact, Joker’s name isn’t even Arthur in the comics, shows, and other adaptions – he doesn’t have one. However, this isn’t based heavily on the comics, except for minimal inspiration from The Killing Joke comic. The style of this film was completely different to how “superhero” movies tend to go.

It was very artsy. Often with “superhero” movies, you can just turn your brain off for the whole thing and just watch the story unfold, but you can’t do that with Joker. Joker blurs the lines between reality and hallucination, and it’s up to the viewers to decipher what’s real and what’s not.

This is definitely one of the darkest movies I’ve ever seen, and there was plenty of times that it was difficult to watch, but I wouldn’t have expected anything different. Of course a villain like Joker was going to have a tragic backstory, something had to drive him to being the way he is.

The Controversy

arther backstage at franklin murray show joker

Some people were concerned that Joker would encourage incels but I don’t see that. Arthur is delusional, creepy, and self-entitled, but he doesn’t have a vendetta against women or feel like it’s women and women alone who owe him anything. His treatment of Sophie wasn’t right, but it’s clear that his behaviour doesn’t pay off – no one is going to watch Joker and think that following women actually gets them the girl. It’s society as a whole he has an issue with, specifically those who cross him and keep him down.

What I’d be more worried about is that what some people might take away from this film is that mentally ill people are a danger to society. The overwhelming majority of people with mental illness, which is literally 20-25% of people, have never been a danger to society. Mentally ill people are actually more in danger than people who don’t suffer from mental illness. Often the only person some mentally ill people are a danger to is themselves.

There’s also been rumours circulating that Jared Leto was not happy about the film and wanted to stop it. In 2017 he said playing Joker was like “holding the baton” briefly and passing it on. I don’t know what’s true or not, but it seems like he won’t be getting the promised spin-off film with Harley Quinn. After all, Birds of Prey seems to be Harley’s post-break-up girl power moment. Joker is not in the same DCU that Suicide Squad is set in. It’s also unlikely, unless we’re being played, to be the same as Robert Pattinson’s Batman too.

I’ve shared my thoughts on remakes before, but this isn’t a remake. All recent Jokers have been so different, not only character wise, but story wise; The Dark Knight and Suicide Squad could not be more different. Joker is completely unprecedented, it’s a whole new tale, except the main character is someone we’re already familiar with.

My final thoughts

joker "the worst part about having a mental illness is that people expect you to behave as if you don't"

There were times I felt for Arthur, especially at the very start when he seemed content being a clown. If he didn’t lose his support system, and wasn’t treated so bad, he never would have became Joker. At no point did they dehumanise him, there’s something in Arthur a lot of people can relate to, on a less extreme scale, and that makes people uncomfortable when the bad guys are people.

Everyone took something different away from this movie. For me, Joker was a cautionary tale about why we cannot continue to fail people who are mentally ill, disabled, or just frankly need support. Everyone who’s been through the system knows that Arthur losing his therapy and access to medication due to funding cuts, is very real and common. If the services were appropriate, effective, and available for people before the reached crisis points, I guarantee you we would have less suicide, and addiction in society.

Joaquin Phoenix gave an outstanding performance, so much so, that it felt like he wasn’t acting at all. Although his Joker is a lot different from Heath Ledger’s, it definitely lives up to the standard that was set.

Everything about this movie was of the highest quality: the actors performances, the set, the cinematography, the score, even the colours. It’s a masterpiece.

20 thoughts on “What I thought of Joker: Film Review

  1. This is fantastically written, well done, and thank you for including a Trigger Warning.

    I have yet to see the movie, and had so far only seen controversy over whether it might spark some kind of mass shooting as has been seen before.

    I will definitely have to give it a watch at some point.

    Great post!

    1. The shooter from the Dark Knight actually said that he didn’t do it because of Joker or the fact that it was a batman movie, as messed up as it was, he’d have shot up any movie that premiered, it just happened to be the Dark Knight. The media just kinda ran with the “Joker shooter” thing when the real issue is gun violence & gun control

  2. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I really want to after all the rave reviews and the stills I’ve seen have been so great – I appreciate movies which have some artistic shots and Joker definitely seems to have those! I also appreciated that you didn’t have spoilers in the review. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it! It’s definitely made me want to watch it even more.

  3. This is a great review, I haven’t seen it yet and was worried that I would struggle to watch it. I think after this review though I will definitely go and see it!

  4. Much as I loved Heath Ledger’s interpretation of Joker (he completely stole the show), everything I’ve heard about Joaquin Phoenix’s performance has made me really want to see this movie. And your review, especially with your points about mental health awareness and how we treat those who suffer with it, has just confirmed that even more for me. Great review, thank you, especially for not giving away any spoilers either. Lisa x

  5. It’s great that you mentioned the worry that it may convey a wrong image about mental health.

    I’ve still yet to see it but that was a concern of mine that it could have negative connotations.

  6. Excellent review, I’ve read so many mixed things about this that I’m not too sure what to expect when I see it. I’ve seen some people say that it makes ill mental health look glamorous but I’m not getting that impression from the reviews I’ve read so far. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the controversial elements as well as the performance x

    Sophie

  7. I went to see this recently and found it very hard to watch.

    There were times when it made me feel so deeply sad, while other times I was angry. Ultimately I left with a mixture of sadness, anger and frustration at how much he could have been helped had the system not been a complete social-class fuck up.

  8. I actually loved this movie so much. I thought it was super important that they actually focused on the mental health aspect more so than the typical “action movie” scenes. It was painful to watch at times just because of how real it was, but even more painful to hear people in the theater laughing at particularly dark scenes because they clearly were not seeing the bigger picture. Great review!

  9. It was great how the movie included how funding cuts can fail people who want to do everything they can to stay mentally well. I didn’t think it particularly gave the message that ‘all people with mental health issues will do this if they deteriorate’ though like some people were worried about and it did focus on why Arthur in particular followed that story arc.

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