Joaquin Phoenix takes on the tough role of a mentally disturbed man when he hits the big screen portraying a popular comic book villian in the “Joker.”

The film centers around the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone fictional story not seen before on the big screen.

Director Todd Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is indelibly portrayed by Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society.

A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night, but finds the joke always seems to be on him.

Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study.

IMDb trivia states that the Joker’s make-up is very similar to John Wayne Gacy’s, a serial killer who would often entertain children while dressed as Pogo the Clown. This make-up style was shunned by working clowns at the time, as they strictly prohibit “sharp” ends in their make-up, as it scares children.

Also, Phoenix lost a lot of weight for his role as the Joker. It was so serious that filming could only be done once, with no opportunity for reshoots.

Other stars in the film include: Robert De Niro (“Raging Bull” and “Cape Fear”) as Murray Franklin, Zazie Beetz (“Geostorm” and “Deadpool 2”) as Sophie Dumond, Brett Cullen (“Ghost Rider” and “The Dark Knight Rises”) as Thomas Wayne, Bill Camp (“Jason Bourne” and “12 Years a Slave”) as Detective Garrity and Frances Conroy (“The Aviator” and “Catwoman”) as Penny Fleck.

While there is no audience score as of yet, the Tomatometer, based on critics, is at 77 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

“Joker gives its infamous central character a chillingly plausible origin story that serves as a brilliant showcase for its star - and a dark evolution for comics-inspired cinema,” said the Critic’s Consensus on the website.

The film is rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images.

Another film releasing to theaters this weekend includes:

n “Lucy in the Sky,” staring Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm and Dan Stevens. Lucy Cola, a strong woman whose determination and drive as an astronaut take her to space, where she’s deeply moved by the transcendent experience of seeing her life from afar. Back home as Lucy’s world suddenly feels too small, her connection with reality slowly unravels.

The film is rated R for language and some sexual content.

The synopsis for each film is from the Rotten Tomatoes website.

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