***No real spoilers included and come on, you know what happens anyway***
I can’t remember seeing a film at the cinema as entertaining as this since the last Lord of the Rings film in 2003. I’ve grown very, very skeptical about modern cinema, it’s all rubbish. Nothing is original anymore, there are no classics, it’s just remakes, spin-offs and modern cack for a stupified, infantile, hyper PC new age.
I’ve never seen many of the comic films. I couldn’t tell you what’s Marvel and what’s DC. I tend to not like films with an element of the supernatural or ‘magic’ in them. I’ve not seen Batman or Superman, the Hulk, Avengers, Fantastic Five (or four?), Incredibles or any of that lark. But Joker caught my eye because so many people were talking about it, and judging by the reactions, it was exceptionally dark and disturbing. Better still, I was reassured that it had no magic in it at all.
This film is not so dissimilar from British comedies in that it focuses on an extremely awkward character with hyper-delusions of grandeur. The Joker, as he is later known, is a mentally ill, children’s entertainer who is alienated by society. He is forced to support his even more mentally ill mother daily, is from a broken family, and has lofty aspirations of becoming a stand up comedian despite having no notable talent whatsoever. But this ain’t David Brent, this ain’t the Office. There isn’t a moment of comedy in this thing. Only sheer horror and suffering.
The first scene kicks you in the bollocks from the start. Joker is out on the streets, dressed as a clown, doing a silly dance in his giant clown-shoes. A bunch of kids steal his sign from him and a full speed chase commences. He loses the kids in an alley, and the next thing you know, he’s ran face-first into his sign, swung with so much force as to snap into many pieces on contact. You see him lying on the floor, gasping for breath, the water pouring from the joke flower squirter pinned to his shirt.
The thing I loved most about the film was it’s authenticity. This is a typical ‘incel’, a man who has deep rooted issues based on a traumatic past, that clearly translate to difficulties in communicating with women and forming relationships full stop. For some moments he establishes a connection with a beautiful woman from a few doors down, and you watch as his weirdness takes over and all is destroyed. I think for most people strikes a disconcerting chord- this lack of connection, this social awkwardness, this dearth of identity that comes with a strong desire to be liked and accepted.
Joker puts a mirror to our own inadequacies, and this is what makes it unique. I think people don’t normally accept this, but life is extremely awkward, interactions don’t go well and we dwell on them long after, we don’t intervene in conflicts when we should, people misunderstand our intentions, there are huge glaring gulfs in personality between people who mean well, but don’t quite know how to help each other out, we speak to ourselves constantly (if not vocally, then in our minds),.
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.- Jiddu Krishnamurti
I saw this quotation in the comments section of a Youtube review by Russell Brand. It got me thinking, if only you accept the premise that society is ‘profoundly sick’ this would be piercing truth. I believe that as a race, we probably are sick, living in cities in such close proximity, fighting for our livings in jobs we don’t like, having no coherent philosophy but nihilism, engaging in unhealthy romances, lascivious conquests, unwanted pregnancies, laziness, alcoholism, political bigotry on both sides, drug abuse, gang culture, gaming addiction, gambling, social media obsession, coveting other lives, over-consumption of food and resources, environmental destruction to name a handful.
We forget that we only just came down from the trees. We are animals after all, we aren’t evolved to be these superintelligent beings cohabiting in a globalist, well-resourced, democratic, high-tech world. We are evolved to fight and copulate. And due to language and the mysteries of psychology, we have learned to achieve these ends in infinitely complex ways, and to varying degrees of success.
If we accept that society is sick, like our Jiddu tells us, then we must concede that at the most our lives are disingenuous and delusional, normal and popular is not good. Normal is dull. People like the Joker therefore should not be pariahs, they are in a way, normal, precisely because there is ‘no normal.’
You empathise with this guy throughout most of the film. There are two great scenes with his mother, one where he is washing her in the bath, another when he insists they dance together (most great screenplays have a dance in them). He is at first a good man, crippled by mental illness and an extremely unfortunate condition that causes him to laugh uncontrollably, usually at things that are not remotely funny. A crucial development happens early in the film when his medication is taken off him, which to an unknown extent paves the way for acts of astounding violence. Violence so bad that at one point, I gasped and 15 seconds later my friend had to tell me that my hands were in the air, arms on the back of my head, obstructing the view of those behind me.
Could you imagine life going so badly for you, having been so mistreated by society, so resentful, so stifled by the world that you decide to make a name for yourself in the easiest method possible? What the Joker makes you realise is that, though it is uncomfortable, you can. For a lot of people, this is a reality. They have no positive identity, so like Joker, they make one. They never had the ability or the chance to achieve anything and, fed up of being nothing but fodder for society, one day decide not to be any longer. In the modern world, in a place like America anyway, there is one sure-fire way of making a name for yourself. All you need is a gun. Thanks be to the Lord, this only happens very rarely.
Anyway, the film had me from start to finish, the set pieces, the aesthetics, the acting; all absolutely perfect. A must, must watch.
You might not agree with my ideas, but you’ll certainly take something from Joker. It’s guaranteed to get you thinking and talking. And if a movie achieves that, it’s done a pretty good job.