Three films about…clowns: Joker (2019), It (2017) and Stan & Ollie (2018)

Barnaby Page
13 min readJun 5

Why am I writing about these movies now?

Well, I’m moving my back catalogue of movie (and occasionally TV) reviews from another site to Medium — covering many of the best-known releases of the last decade, as well as more obscure fare. To make it a bit more fun, I’ll be grouping them thematically (as here), but unless I spot actual errors I’m not doing any editing…so my opinion may have changed since I first wrote them!

My reviews of new cinema, streaming and disc releases, as well as retrospectives on old (and not-so-old) classics, will mostly continue to appear on the Medium publication Frame Rated.

Anyway, here goes. Enjoy…


Joker, like the terrified, ferocious clown whose travails and transformation it tracks, is all about disharmony: a character who is not at ease with the world or himself, whose ambitions are not matched by his abilities, becoming a monster and bringing further chaos to an already riven city.

Of course humour is very often founded on disharmony too, on the clash between a setup and a punch line, and in some ways the entire film of director Todd Phillips and his co-writer Scott Silver is a gigantic, nearly pitch-black gag, turning on the irony that a basically decent man who’s (by conventional measures) a failure in life can become a success, first through incompetence and then through malice.

But as well as extracting sympathy for a character generally regarded as an extreme villain, there are subtler currents of unease and unrest running through Joker, a film which never lets the audience slot it into a convenient box. It deals with a character from the DC Universe but is emphatically not an established part of that universe (and although the Joker has had origin stories before, including one as a failed comedian in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s book Batman: The Killing Joke of 1988, it’s surely unnecessary to try to link this movie to other works in specifics).

It is set fairly precisely in 1981 (we can tell from movie posters) yet there are things that do not seem to belong to that year (the older-looking police cars and other posters, for example), in much the same way that Gotham City is so…

Barnaby Page

Barnaby is a journalist based in Suffolk, UK. By day he covers science and public policy; by night, film and classical music. He has also been a cinema manager.