'Joker' - A Review

Now you may be reading this review because you’re a huge fan of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker and you’re wondering if Joaquin Phoenix lived up to the high standard he set, or you just may be reading this review for the fun of it, or even because you’ve just seen it. Either way, all that matters is you are reading it right now. I have tried to limit the details I say about the film in order not to spoil it for the people who haven’t seen it yet. I am a huge fan of ‘The Dark Knight’ and Ledger as the Joker was an absolutely phenomenal performance. Phoenix also portrays this character with a performance that is honestly Oscar-worthy. Both of these Jokers are different, but both of them just as spectacular. Based from these descriptions, you might have already guessed that this review is going to be very positive, and you would have guessed correctly! 

First of all, I feel it would be good to introduce a little bit about the film. I went in expecting violence at every opportunity, not an origin story that actually revealed a really upsetting story as to why the joker became the villain which we see performed by Ledger. It is the awful experiences of every-day life, but also his childhood trauma, and the neglect of professional services to help him manage his mental health that build and build, until the conversion is completed. There is a lot of criticism about the way mental health is portrayed in this film, particularly due to how it is neglected by health professionals, even though he explicitly says he needs help otherwise he will go crazy, due to a lack of funding, but I don’t agree with this criticism. This is because, for one, this film reveals clues that suggests it is set in the late 70s-80s, a period where mental health treatments would have been limited. Furthermore, it also shows just how important it is for people to have access to treatments, and the profound effect it can have on those who are unable to receive this. 

It additionally sends a really strong message about how society can treat those who are ‘different’, so do not fit the norms in which most of society try to reinforce, by isolating them, making them feel low, and actively bullying them. This bullying takes two forms; not only physical abuse, but also verbal abuse through being joked about, on TV, but this can even be viewed in relation to social media in our modern society, with the rise of memes and funny videos of people circulating worldwide. If the Joker would have been treated with kindness, he most likely wouldn’t have become the villain the audience sees him transition into. It makes you reflect on how society actually is, reflection being something only good films can usually provoke, and suggests that we need a kinder society, which I completely agree with. This society was also criticised, especially in America, for creating a negative portrayal of American society, even though it is set in the fictional city of ‘Gotham’. In my opinion, this isn’t a dangerous representation, but instead one that should be reflected on, and one in many ways that is actually realistic; perhaps that is the scary part and why it is seen as being potentially dangerous.

The only criticism I really have is that a song by Gary Glitter was played who is a convicted sex offender. This wasn’t needed to be played, and I feel another song would have been effective, if not even more effective than this song choice. It was also widely reported that he would earn royalties in prison from the film playing his song, but it is now being suggested that due to the controversy, this will not be the case. I sincerely hope he is not earning any money from this film, because that really would be a shame.