Joker Movie Review

I finally watched Joker last night.

It is dark. But the movie earns all of its praise. It really is an extremely well done film. Everything works: cinematography, acting, music. It is very well crafted.

There are several major intertwined themes running through the film. A lot of people have interpreted it in a lot of ways, and they aren’t wrong; there’s a lot to unpack.

The biggest theme is probably “rich, powerful people are extremely out of touch with average, or below average people”, which we see every day now (Epstein, Weinstein, Clintons, etc.). This is the big Wayne connection to Joker. The movie tips the whole Batman story on its head; you actually feel sympathy for Arthur Fleck, and while you don’t think the Waynes are necessarily “bad”, the film portrays them as very out of touch, and condescending to the plight of the less fortunate. It’s actually well done; I didn’t feel that I was being preached at, like “look at the bad rich people!”. The message was more, “see the chasm here – these people have no idea what it’s like to live in normal society”.

The second is probably the damage that single mothers can do to sons. The void of an absent father can have a shattering impact on a child. This was probably the most gut-wrenching part of the film for me, and I’m surprised the writers tackled it. Well done though.

The next is probably mental health, and how we deal with disturbed people in society. Although I’m not sure I’d call this a “theme” because it’s more of a given in the film, that society handles this poorly. It’s not making a statement about it per se, it’s just assuming it. But the portrayal is well done, and thought provoking.

A tangential theme is that people need some degree of power in their lives – to feel they control something – and when that is taken away, the hopelessness they experience can cause them to seek power in other, socially taboo ways (e.g., violence), not because they would have preferred that, but because they psychologically have no alternative. This theme is more subtle, but probably the biggest statement the movie makes. The progressive criticism (“this movie is just about white, violent, incels!”) targets this theme, because progressives don’t believe that white males can ever be powerless.

Overall I highly recommend the film. As I said, it earns all the praise it gets. It’s one of the few films I’d consider a modern masterpiece.