Joker (2019) review: controversial content in film & tv is a GOOD thing

This is a SPOILER FREE REVIEW so you can safely read on.

I went to see Joker last night and basically I loved every second of it. It totally surpassed my expectations even though I went in expecting to enjoy it.

Character study

Joaquin Phoenix’s take on the character was chillingly perfect, he toed the line between menacing and pitiful so well. The whole film felt like a character study of how someone like the Joker could come to be, and honestly I can’t fault it. His laugh was just… something else.

You start the film feeling uncomfortable watching Arthur (aka Joker) suffer, but as film gets more and more violent, and as he moves from Arthur to Joker, it actually gets EASIER to stomach, because anything is better than the hopelessness of watching him not be able to do anything.

Confrontations

Without giving anything away, I think a lot of the characters that Arthur comes up against were chosen specifically to make us take his side. They’re often entitled, or somehow hold more privilege than Arthur (even if they aren’t particularly privileged themselves). Each interaction seems crafted to make us WANT him to be violent, or to win the confrontation, because we see ourselves in his shoes.

For a film to make its entire audience sympathise with a madman, I’d argue that it’s an incredible achievement. I also love how we see things through his narrative, so each twist and turn feels fresh and unexpected because we’re dealing with such an unreliable yet violently entertaining narrator.

Controversy

As for the debate online as to whether the film’s controversy will influence violence off-screen, I think the film speaks for itself. It left me with this question; if we’re so worried about people hurting others because of a movie, shouldn’t we be offering more support for the poor, mentally ill, or disenfranchised, rather than censoring our entertainment?

I’ve said before (usually when speaking about horror films) that I think violence, or unsettling / controversial content in film and tv isn’t something that should be censored. I believe it’s a way for us to comment and reflect on what scares us about the real world. Dracula? The book’s title character was invented because society feared feminine men and immigrants at the time. Joker? I’d say this film speaks to the disconnect between classes in our society, and so rather than censor it we should listen to it.

There are a lot of other things I could comment on that I loved (costume and makeup, little Easter eggs and nods to the comics and earlier films, cinematography, set design, musical score) and there’s a lot more I’d like to say which includes details of the plot, so I’ll save that for another time!

For now, I feel the best review I can give of this film and it’s contents is to just say this: go and see it for yourself 🤡

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Do you have a film in mind that you’d like to hear my thoughts on? Let me know on Twitter or Instagram at @netflixkill or comment below!

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