The jester's unfolding
According to the chaos theory about the butterfly effect, specific small actions at a certain point can create a larger impact at an indeterminate moment later on, which depending on the change can result in something relatively positive or massively chaotic. Joker is a mad and unique take surrounding the origins of the most infamous villain in the Batman lore, painting him as a highly flawed individual with mental illness harbored by the stress coming from the complications of the social hierarchy order in the city of Gotham. Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) aspires to be a stand up comedian with his only ambition being to make others laugh. The problem with that is Arthur lacks the creativity of being a comedian, and his laughing condition breaks his composure to which people can't take him seriously. With society constantly wearing him down and being shunned by the people around him, he reaches his breaking point; realizing that trying to maintain his positivity is just insane. At that moment Arthur commences his downward spiral which will lead into his inevitable transformation as the clown prince of crime. Despite being based on a comic book character, Joker doesn't feel restricted or limited by its' own source material. By taking a linear approach and focusing solely on Joaquin's masterclass interpretation of the joker, the film excels in giving us a unique and dark narrative of how this character came to be. One of the film's strengths is the allegoric parallels with real world issues such as mental instability, the clash of classes between the rich and poor, and how acts of violence can influence mob mentality. Speaking of influence, it's clear there are certain traits of Scorsese present in the film such as Arthur's character which feels like a throwback to Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (with similar psychological undertones) and the dark comedy elements from The King of Comedy. Of course, I couldn't say how well this all comes together without mentioning how Joaquin Phoenix delivers this painful yet artistic performance of the character. I wholeheartedly admit that I was bias when I discovered he'd portray the joker since Heath Ledger cemented that role perfectly prior to him back in 2008's The Dark Knight. After watching Joker, trying to compare the two would be like comparing a Picasso painting to a Monet; each is different but unique in their own way. Phoenix's version is a stark contrast to what we're used to seeing and it is undeniably fantastic and meticulously deep. What could've been just an easy origin story of a known villain instead translates into something so much more: a critique on society, a psychological character study, and the precautionary tale of how our treatment of others less-fortunate can lead to unsettling consequences later. Joker is destined to become a classic that will warrant multiple viewings thanks in part to its ambiguous narrative that fans and moviephiles alike will talk about for years to come, as well as for Phoenix's now legendary performance. Joker gets my highest recommendation and is one of 2019's very best.