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‘Joker’ is a beautifully sinister film

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a failed comedian who’s a downward spiral into madness transforms him into the Joker. Warner Bros. website photo

“Joker” is a gruesome, yet poignant adaptation of the infamous DC Comics villain.

Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a failed comedian who makes his living as a clown-for-hire. Fleck suffers from mental illness stemming from abuse he experienced in his early life and from the turbulent conditions of his current one. When Fleck’s life begins to take a turn for the worst, he begins a descent into madness and insanity and becomes the infamous villain we all know today.

Phoenix is one of, if not the best actor in American cinema. If there’s anything reflective of his performance in the 2017 film, “You Were Never Really Here,” it’s that Phoenix’s abilities as an actor are truly versatile and he can portray a character suffering from psychological trauma well.

Phoenix’s Joker is grim and menacing, but he’s also depressing because as an audience, we finally see an origin story behind a character whose origin story in previous media has always been clouded in ambiguity and obscurity. Fleck’s character arc is saddening since both his work-life and home-life is in absolute shambles.

For the sake of keeping this review, spoiler-free, I won’t go too much into detail. With that said, the build-up and rising action behind Fleck’s downward spiral into madness is revolting and hard to watch, because of the condition of his life, yet captivating enough that you can’t take your eyes away from the screen.

On top of Phoenix’s performance, his physical preparation for the role was most shocking. His commitment to method acting is reflected in his physical appearance throughout “Joker.” I believe Phoenix starved himself because he was so skinny that he looked unhealthy.

Very few actors commit themselves to these extreme body transformations. Actors like Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey have undergone similar transformations in films like “Vice” and “Dallas Buyers Club,” respectively, and have done it well. Not every great actor or actress should strive for this level of method acting, but it’s something worthy of respect when they do reach that level because to make your body endure so much stress for one role shows true dedication and Phoenix does just that in “Joker.”

I would argue that Phoenix’s Joker is on par with Heath Ledger’s legendary portrayal of the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.”

The narrative of “Joker” was a lot more cohesive than I had originally anticipated considering Warner Brothers’s awful track record with DC Comics films. The overall film flowed well and did not have a single dull moment. Considering the film is based on a villain from the Batman franchise, there were many moments where the film could have shoe-horned many references to the superhero, but the film does an exceptional job of focusing mainly on Joker’s character while giving a few subtle nods to the original superhero.

What I admired most about this film is its unwillingness to hold back. The film is gritty, violent and abhorrent in its aesthetic. But the abundance of grotesque visuals do not deter “Joker,” but rather compliments it because it allows the film to explore a darker and depressive side of the human condition. Plus, it allows the film to showcase a violent and cruel Joker at his true potential.

“Joker” exceeded all my expectations, and then some, and I cannot recommend this film enough to fans of both comic book characters and gritty cinema.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Angel Ortega can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AngelOrtegaNews.

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About the Contributor
Angel Ortega, A&E Editor
Angel Ortega is a journalism-news major with a minor in cinema studies. Angel has been on the Orion for four years, serving as both a staff writer and arts & entertainment editor. He enjoys writing artist profiles and film reviews. When he’s not working for the Orion, you can find him at a concert or music festival.

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