I didn’t find that Joker to be nearly as deep as most people thought. I feel like it’s really just a movie that you go in and see what you were expecting of it. If you went in wanting to love it, you probably loved it. If you went in wanting to hate it, you probably hated it. Personally, I went in not really sure how I felt, and I left right in the center of the spectrum.
On the one hand, Joaquin Phoenix is very good. I applaud him for his effort and great acting (though I think my favorite performance from him is still 2013’s HER. I also think the cinematography was very good and the film’s color palette looked great. That being said, I don’t think the film is “good.”
I think that Todd Phillips didn’t really have any inspired directing. I don’t know that he had a vision outside of, “I want to make an arthouse film,” which is kind of what he said. “How do I do something irreverent, but f*ck comedy?” He didn’t want to make this movie because he was inspired to do so, but because he felt cornered. Apparently it’s impossible to do comedy nowadays, so he moved on to next popular thing. I think it shows.
Phillips doesn’t allow for tense moments and scenes to stay tense, he immediately tries to move on to the next moment or give instant relief. SPOILERS!!! The scene where Joker kills his former coworker had some great build up and was a great moment to portray the breaking point of the character, a moment that sets the rest of the film up. But it’s immediately undercut by a joke that’s like, “Haha, little people are short and can’t open a door on their own.” Like, what? You just had your character do something horrific and reach his breaking point. We don’t want comedic relief here. It completely undermines and lessens what he just did. On top of that, when he finally suits up and goes down the stairs, the song choice is atrocious. It didn’t match the scene at all. Disagree? Go watch the trailer and tell me the elegant and slightly off-putting music isn’t a better backing.
All of the “beautiful” arts-y things don’t feel like they were done because Todd Phillips had a vision and needed to get it out, they look like they were done because that’s what an arthouse film would do in that moment. It didn’t feel inspired, it felt like someone trying to mimic the artists that came before. Oh, Joaquin started dancing for no reason, okay let’s film that. It’s “irreverent” and something that an arts-y film would do. The whole film is very surface-level, and has nothing to say.
I’ll concede that this film does talk briefly on the way our government ignores mental health victims. However, the way people of mental health issues are portrayed in this film is not accurate to real life. Not everyone with a mental illness is dangerous and someone that needs to be worried about. But, in this film they start riots, scream and try to break their chains, and manipulate those around them. You can’t really have an honest discussion on a mental health crisis in America when your portrayal of mental health is completely surface level and not reflective of the entire spectrum in reality. And, that’s my same response to anyone who says that this is about society treating those poorly and that’s why people do bad things. It’s just not reflective of the truth. Last year I wrote a thesis paper trying to analyze what causes mass shooters to do what they do. Most people believe that what pushes people to do awful things is that “society” treats those people poorly and ostracizes them, but that’s not always true. The Columbine assailants for example, one came from an extremely liberal, loving, anti-gun home. He was depressed, overworked, and a perfectionist; and that’s what pushed him apparently. But that’s just this assailant. In fact, the only consistency I was able to find between people like that… was that there was no consistency. All of them had their own reasons for doing it, with very little overlap.
So, yeah, sorry for the essay. I think if Todd Phillips hadn’t tried to pretend like this was some deep and emotional film, then I wouldn’t have tried to analyze it as much, but he did. And on top of that, he was a bit of an arse about it too, lol.
If you enjoy or love this film, good. I am genuinely happy and jealous of you. Don’t feel like this is an attack on you, your enjoyment, or your tastes/preferences of film. This is simply my opinion and perspective on the film. I wish I could enjoy it more, and I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with my points or feel they’re not nearly as important as I’m making them out to be; but they are to me.