Laurel and Hardy obviously need no introduction. Their contribution to classic Hollywood cinema has been well documented but somehow not widely appreciated. Stan and Ollie takes this on-board and shows a side of the comedy duo rarely explored.
This film charts a period in the twilight of the duos career. After enjoying years of global success the two get together for a tour of Uk and Irish music halls. It covers the personal elements of their relationship during this time.
From the offset the film looks visually sophisticated with special care and attention placed on sets and costumes. The casting is where this film comes into its own:
I don’t need to point what a voice talent Steve Coogan is. He has proven his acting chops over the years with Alan Partridge, and the shockingly good Philomena. His turn as Stan Laurel is painfully accurate, a complete character rendition and not just a funny voice.
John C Reilly demonstrates an equally weighted performance. His delivery is somehow more believable visually in the movements and body language of the late Oliver Hardy of which he shares a resemblance. Again another crafted performance and not just an actor in a fat suit.
They are backed up by a superb and strong supporting cast, with special note going to Shirley Henderson as Lucille Hardy. The wives form another contrasting double act which shifts the focus throughout the film but only marginally.
This outing is delivered with class and style via idyllic and heart-warming storytelling. This is very much a joyous, feel good, positive and wholly bitter sweet tale. Without struggling under the weight of the icons themselves the film is beautiful, warm, engaging and affectionate with the source material.
It also emphasizes that, as a medium, Slapstick is accessible to all. These actors nail the movements, facial expressions, mannerisms and language of their studies.
Without spoilers, I found the third act to be particularly heart-wrenching. Tragedy is played into the comedy and follows the pair even through such scenes. It does get caught up in its own weight for a few seconds at the end but given that it lasted that long it can be excused for basking in its own spotlight.
I enjoyed this one immensely and found it to be . Entirely charming. The respect on screen for the pair is reverent. It’s a love story told at a definitive time in their careers.
This film is the story of a comedic institution and who better to play the pair than two of comedies modern masters. With any luck it will turn a generation onto the comedic stylings of all 4 masters of their trade. The takeaway message of the film is simple : there is no laurel without hardy.
Here is fantastic side by side comparison to illustrate :