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  • Writer's pictureMichael Chen

This Is Not A Review of 'Joker'

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

This will be a largely spoiler free piece of writing. I just feel the urge to write something.

I am so intrigued by how my circle of friends are reacting to this movie. The reactions are very strong and are so divided. This is reflected worldwide.

Those who love it, are absolutely crazy about it. Watching the film more than once. At times, defending it to death when they see negative comments about it on social media. 'Life-changing piece of cinema' is not an over exaggeration.

Those who hate it, downright hate it. I think the general feel is that the film is pretending to tackle deep issues like the downfall of society, mental health, glorification of violence and so on.

If you are reading this, leave me a comment below, which camp are you in?


*Spoiler Alert, do not watch this linked video unless you've already seen the movie* : I quite like and agree with most of the points in

Full disclosure, I belong to the camp who absolutely loved the movie. As much as I enjoy the superhero genre of films that is taking over our collective consciousness of what to watch when we go to the cinema. I miss watching other kinds of films on the big screen. Here's an example of a movie riding on the coat tails of the whole superhero genre but not doing it in the expected style. Shoutout to 'Logan' on this note. And that's already winning a few points from me.

As an actor & a producer and just someone who wants to make good art, this movie affected me on all of those levels. The parts of the movie that 'allowed' people to laugh, more out of discomfort than the scene actually being 'funny' were the parts of the movie that made me feel even more moved.

When writing this, I was trying to figure out if I appreciated the film more as an actor because of Joaquin Phoenix's brilliance as a performer. Or was I more impressed by the film-making craft of Todd Phillips, someone more known for films like 'War Dogs' and the 'Hangover' series of films?

I've always liked watching Phoenix (even though I am not a big fan of method-actors in general) and I didn't care that a lot of critics were saying that Phillips was not being original enough by basically leaning too heavy on his film references of 'Taxi Driver' and 'The King of Comedy'. I mean if you're going to copy/reference, do it 'well' and it's all cool to me!

There have been occasions when I would love a movie as an actor but would hate it as a producer and vice versa. This is an occupational hazard I guess.

But when my wife shared an IG post by Josh Brolin about why he appreciates 'Joker', I realised that the movie actually managed to engage with me more as 'just a human being'.

He says, "To appreciate “Joker” I believe you have to have either gone through something traumatic in your lifetime (and I believe most of us have) or understand somewhere in your psyche what true compassion is (which usually comes from having gone through something traumatic, unfortunately). " - excerpt from Brolin's IG post.

When it comes to acting normal or what is accepted by society at large, I believe all of us are hanging on by a thread. Some of us have flimsy threads of sanity that are prone to breaking but we come back. Some threads break and we get lost in the abyss of the craziness of the world. Then there are the lucky ones who live charmed lives and never really experience what it's like to be so close to the edge of breaking. This last group of people will never know the struggle of then having to fight to come back to being 'normal'.

Maybe that's the thing with 'Joker'. Those who have not gone through something traumatic enough to be able to emphatize with the 'Arthur Fleck' character (*Note: Not condone his evil actions, there's a difference!) probably cannot understand why the movie goes to such lengths to presenting Joker the way that it did.

At the same time, there are those who have gone through something traumatic enough to emphatize but have yet to come to terms with what they went through. They could probably be in denial towards what they have experienced. They would probably analyze this movie beyond what it really is, 'a story about a guy who took so much shit from the world, that he really couldn't take it anymore, so he broke'.

Questions like nature vs nurture ie 'was he always evil or is he a product of the environment?' or even more simply, 'do you agree with any of the themes of the film etc?' - to me, these are subjective and people can talk on these elements till the cows come home.

I enjoyed this movie. I loved that it was shot well and that enough thought and craft was applied for it to look and sound the way that it does. I like that I was challenged to think about how I treat people on a daily basis while I was watching the movie. Are there 'Arthur Flecks' around me that I can help?

Maybe that's the biggest take-away the movie should have. What do you think?

Anyway, that's my two-cents.

Signing off.

*This is the first of my 'This Is Not A Review' series.


Check out these other links (WARNING FOR SPOILERS!) :

How Joker Is Leading A Movement For Mental Health by The Stories We Tell Ourselves - Podcast

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