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All Areas > Entertainment > Film Review

Author: Joe Kennett, Posted: Thursday, 24th October 2019, 09:00

Joaquin Phoenix Joaquin Phoenix

In a dark, dull, lifeless Gotham, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a failing stand-up comedian, clown and member of society.

This is a man who has to use two fingers to force a smile onto his face, yet suffers from uncontrollable fits of laughter in the most inappropriate settings. He’s on more types of medication than anyone should be and faces neglect wherever he goes. In fact, the most attention he gets is when he’s being beaten up. This is Gotham City, 1981.

Now, the immediate response when hearing a description of someone who’s living a pretty miserable life is to feel empathetic, and as an audience we have to, to some extent.

But at the end of the day, the Joker is a villain, and as the plot progresses, this is a man pushed further and further towards the brink of collapse, and behind the tearful eyes of Arthur Fleck is a man capable of cold-blooded killing. After all, ‘Joker’ is essentially an origin story – an origin story from DC as never seen before.

Writer and director Todd Phillips deserves all the praise he can get for piecing together this masterful movie, full of raw emotion and dark truths, enough to humble any person on the sad realities of life.

The film comes at such an important time in society, too, as mental health awareness receives more attention than ever in the media.

Perhaps Phillips has an ulterior motive with ‘Joker’ – a warning of what can happen when poor mental health is neglected and the importance of checking up on one another. The film is a slow-burn, but with great effect. We see Fleck’s character dissolve into villainy with such uncomfortable pain, as the world casts him out further and further.

Of course, though, the final and most pivotal words go out to Joaquin Phoenix for his gut-wrenching, committed, jaw-dropping performance as Fleck, and later, the Joker.

After losing a considerable amount of weight for the role, with his bones looking more like shadows, Phoenix has mastered every aspect of becoming this role, from the way he walks right the way through to the way he laughs, with such pain in every cackle.

He becomes a freak with such flair and embodies everything the Joker should be; an outcast with nothing to live for, other than becoming a villain. When compared with the likes of Jared Leto and Heath Ledger, this is the Joker in a new light.

Having composed a villain’s origin story which is only very loosely based on a comic from 1988 (‘The Killing Joke’), Phillips has assembled an all-star cast with Phoenix and Robert De Niro.

Alongside an astounding symphony, the film brings the DC Cinematic Universe back to the forefront of superhero (or villain) movies with a newfound sense of real emotion and purely astonishing cinematography.

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