Ben Hibburd’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Joker” might be the most misinterpreted film I have ever come across, so, this is the only time I’m getting political on my account. If you’re not interested in that sort of thing then I won’t hold it against you if you skip by.
So, what can I say about this film that hasn’t already been said? Every year there seems to be a film or a major piece of media that becomes the focal point between the left/right online “culture war." 2017 was “The Last Jedi” 2018: “Battlefield V” 2019: “Joker” and so far this year it’s been “The Last of Us part II.” If one group likes said product the other has to immediately dismiss it on principal, and vice versa. Well, I’m hear to say that it’s fucking silly. Right from the get go “Joker” was targeted by the mainstream media. Was it really because it was so inflammatory that it would spark mass shootings? Or that it glorified incel culture? Turns out it was neither of these.
Perhaps it was because “Joker” took aim at the very institutions that smear progressive political candidates like Bernie, AOC or Jeremy Corbyn at every possible turn? It’s amazing how mega corporations and news media are quick to hop onto social trends that require no effort to change or to reform, and most importantly don’t affect their bottom line. But when it comes to highlighting broken systems, wealth inequality, the struggle of working people, films like “Joker” are labelled as “bad” films that will cause “bad”, “scary” things to happen, which in this case it didn’t in the slightest. And once again centrists and liberals eat up basic establishment rhetoric and feed into the never ending cycle. And perhaps worse allow this version of the Joker to become a pseudo-poster child for the right and fringe groups within. This makes me really angry because at its core I can’t think of a film that touches upon so many left-wing issues. Heck, the Joker is at the centre of a bloody Tankie revolution in this film. I mean, c’mon. The film practically ends with downtrodden citizen’s “eating the rich.” But because he wears a clown mask and upsets boomer libs, the film gets immediately dismissed as some kind of alt-right dog whistle. Which it isn't.
I can’t believe all the hot takes I've read on this site. One of the biggest criticisms I see is that the director Todd Phillips somehow tries to sympathise with the Joker and justify his actions, all I have to say to that is what movie did you watch? The Joker (Arthur Fleck) is a sad sack. He’s a character that has been marginalised by society and the film showcases that with the cuts to his mental health funding. But it also shows Arthur as a victim of his own inaction. He takes no responsibility for his life and his goals, even in this film he’s apolitical. The Joker doesn’t have any political leanings. What the Joker is, is he’s an anarchic, malevolent force that acts as a mirror for civility pushed to the brink of collapse. He doesn't start the revolt, he's just the spark for the increasingly violent tension between Gotham's elites and the working class. So whilst society has given him bad breaks, it’s his own actions that cause him to spiral into a murderous rampage. It’s just that when he finally takes action for the first time in his life, he does so in the worst possible way, which reinforces his worldview. A worldview that has constantly beaten him down. The film makes no attempts to portray him in a positive light, in fact it clearly showcases how horrific his actions are.
I went into this film apprehensive due to the utterly psychotic hyperbole surrounding this film's discourse, especially the irresponsible coverage the media gave it. I mean, they were salivating at the thought that this film would lead to violent, extremist action. But now that I’ve seen it I have to say that I just don’t see what the fuss was about? Also on a side note, every person and their mother has stated that this thematically and visually takes a lot of influence from 70’s classics like “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy.” Again, I have to say; so what? If you’re going to be influenced it might as-well be from the best films of all time, right?
“Joker” is a thematically rich film that explores a multitude of societal issues that currently plague our culture. From wealth inequality to the lack of funding and understanding of mental health this is a film that has an important message that has unfortunately been obfuscated and misunderstood by people acting in bad faith. The reaction to this film is basically “The Last Jedi” in reverse.
And finally it goes without saying that Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance of his life and he truly is the Joker! I also loved the look and feel of this film. It’s drenched in atmosphere and as a sucker for 70’s crime thrillers this was right in my wheelhouse. The score by Hildur Guðnadóttir was also a standout as it accentuated the eeriness and unsettling vibes this film elicited. I fucking loved every single frame of this film and I only wished that I’d seen this in the cinema. I’d rather have one “Joker” than twenty production line Marvel bore fests. Tell me the last time a Marvel film dealt with class warfare and issues that currently impact us as a society? I’ll wait.