Stan & Ollie

By: Jessica Goddard

Touching, sincere, and surprisingly universal, Jon S. Baird’s Stan & Ollie is a sensitive look into the last tour of legendary comedy act Laurel and Hardy.  Built on wonderful performances from Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as Laurel and Hardy respectively, the biopic has wonderful range – from the tender or vicious exchanges to the subtle but magnetic moments when the pair perform on stage as a duo.

Appropriately titled, in Stan & Ollie we meet the men behind the movies: their personal bond, seamless professional dynamic, and their complicated history.

The film chronicles a familiar arc: formerly bigtime stars aging and fading from relevance, hoping to remind the public they’re still out there and working.  So, a stage tour of the U.K. and Ireland is planned in hopes it will lead to financing for the Robin Hood film Laurel is constantly writing scenes for on his typewriter.  Fresh off the plane, Laurel and Hardy check-in to a small, musty hotel without a bellboy (not exactly the standard they’re accustomed to) and it quickly becomes apparent the tour hasn’t been selling as well as they would have expected.  To make matters worse, money is running low and Hardy’s health is failing.

The comedic styles represented in the film are delightfully wide-ranging – from samplings of slapstick to quippy, cutting dialogue.  But in the dramatic department, there’s something unfortunately forced about the sense of tension between the two main characters;  as if the script was really trying to wedge in a weighty, super personal conflict.

Most significantly, this movie’s strength is how it makes you root for, and feel for, these earnest characters.  There’s something beautifully human in the way it portrays the struggle of balancing work, health, domestic obligations, friendship, and ambition.

Stan & Ollie is charming, full of heart, and entertaining as both a biopic for long-time fans and an introduction to the duo’s famous characters and performance style.


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