stan & ollie
DIRECTOR: Jon s. baird (cass, filth)
STARRING: steve coogan, john c. reilly, shirley henderson, and nina arianda
REVIEWER: lyall carter
Laurel and Hardy - the world's greatest comedy team - face an uncertain future as their golden era of Hollywood films remain long behind them. Diminished by age, the duo set out to reconnect with their adoring fans by touring variety halls in Britain in 1953. The shows become an instant hit, but Stan and Ollie can't quite shake the past as long-buried tension and Hardy's failing health start to threaten their precious partnership.
Hollywood, in recent years, have loved producing films about its 'good ol' days.' From Hail, Caesar! to Rules Don't Apply, Hollywood likes a trip down memory lane.
But Stan and Ollie is more than just a dash of tinsel town nostalgia, its a really good film to boot.
Stan and Ollie opens with Laurel and Hardy at the very height of their popularity, stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. But with a couple of bad career moves their star begins to wane and they find themselves out of favour with Hollywood executives. So they set out on a tour of the variety halls of Britain and although their shows gain in popularity and success, they must face Hardy's failing health and the cracks in their once solid partnership.
To call Stan and Ollie a 'buddy' comedy or merely a nostalgic trip down Hollywood's memory lane would be a disservice both to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy's careers and to the film itself.
Sure there are wonderful moments of comic genius that you can see have inspired and influenced comedians after them and sure Stan and Ollie has a bit of that nostalgic feeling, but at its heart, the very linchpin of the film is the relationship between Stan and Oliver.
Its a fascinating insight into a hugely successful working relationship; the cost they both had to bare, their stark differences in personality and temperament, and ultimately how their differences worked in their favour.
One of the great joys of Stan and Ollie is that you feel that this a snap shot of a moment of their lives, not a monotonous expose from their cradle to the grave. It invites you into an old but familiar world and its an utter joy to be there.
Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are both superb as the two leads and rightly deserve the plaudits that they have received. Critics and audience members alike seem to applaud more 'outrageous' acting performances like astounding physical transformations or the more bizarre characters.
But its incredibly hard to play a more human figure; the one who doesn't bawl or shout. Both Coogan and Reilly give performances that are beautiful in their subtlety and nuance.
A nostalgic trip down Hollywood's memory lane, some hilarious comedy, and superb performances from Coogan and Reilly, Stan and Ollie makes for a wondrous night out.