This is a SPOILER FREE REVIEW
On Saturday, I went to see the new ‘Joker’ film by Todd Philips, staring Joaquin Phoenix. I had heard many good things about it from friends and reviewers online. However, I was slightly sceptical considering how awful the recent films about DC comics have been. If you’ve seen Batman vs Superman, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Despite all of this, when the film finished, I left satisfied yet slightly disturbed, a testament to the quality of the film.
The movie follows the life of Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill man who has been beaten down and neglected by society and how he slowly let’s go of his fear and morality to become the iconic ‘Joker’. I really appreciated this new spin on this character. We have had the overly absurd arch enemy of Batman with deadly props and poor one-liners before. Heath Ledger gave an incredible performance in the Dark Knight but never really gave any clues about his past. This film is gritty and realistic. There are no cheesy and ridiculous aspects to him. Arthur is a man who is neglected and due to this turn against the society that never cared for him in the first place. What is most disturbing about this is how it reflects well our modern world. The film suggests that all it takes is a series of events to push someone over the edge into insanity. The realism of the movie conveys this so well and it is this aspect that makes it so compelling.
A huge part of this movie is the performance of Joaquin Phoenix. It is truly deserving of an Oscar. He is able to capture a man who is desperate to be accepted and after being rejected so frequently, he cracks. His performance invokes a certain level of sympathy despite the . Even the small parts of his performance were executed so well. The most iconic part of the Joker’s character is his unsettling laugh. Phoenix nails it. It is disturbing and unnerving. A difference between this adaptation of Joker from others is that the story behind the laugh is explained. Early on in the film, you discover that Fleck has a mental condition called pseudobulbar affect. This cause him to laugh uncontrollably at any point. Rather than it being a trope of his character, this film depicts it as one of the things that leads him to insanity. Phoenix understood the importance of this and, in preparation for the role, went and talked to people with this illness. This effort and attention to detail is evident in the film. He even lost 3 and a half stone for the role in order so show Fleck’s physical vulnerability. He provides it with so much and I feel that without him as the Joker, the film would be nowhere near as good.
Mental Health is a core issue in this film. As we have just had Mental Health Awareness Week, I felt that this film was a fantastic representation of the struggles of this issue. It emphasised the fact that anyone can be affected by it and all it takes is a little push to push someone over the edge. I am not saying that doing this will cause everyone to become murdering psychopaths, but how, in general, it can be so detrimental. The film captures so well how Arthur, through stand-up comedy, is crying out for help and acceptance yet all he gets is abuse. It leads you to think that if someone had just shown him some sort of compassion, he may have avoided becoming the Joker all together. I feel this is such an important message for RHS. Mental Health takes many forms. You may or may not know if someone is affected by it. All we need to do is be kind, help each other rather than degrade and dehumanise. The difference between someone getting the help they need and falling into a dark, unescapable place can be as small as choosing to offer that small bit of support to another.
‘Joker’ is a fantastic movie that I recommend anyone over the age of 15 to go and watch. It does have some issues like pacing and the fact that Arthur seems to unnecessarily smoke in EVERY scene. Despite this, the performance by Phoenix, the compelling story and the important commentary on mental health certainly warrants a watch.