Out this in cinemas is Stan & Ollie. Directed by Jon S. Baird and starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as the iconic duo Stan & Ollie tells the story of their final adventure together.
It’s a fascinating look at the dynamic between one of the most dynamic duos in entertainment and it works because of one key element – chemistry.
Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly play Stanley “Stan” Laurel and Oliver “Ollie” Hardy respectively and they are magnificent. Their back and forth is filled with such intimate familiarity that you believe them as these two comedic giants. My particular favourite is Coogan who plays the hapless Stan who in this story feels like a man who is never fully appreciated.
He puts so much effort into the work behind and in front of the camera and seemed to be working up until the day he died. You feel Stan’s passion for his craft as most of the film centres around Stan and Ollie trying to get funding for their latest picture as they travel across Europe on their latest and potentially last comedy tour.
He’s doing all the work, writing up the gags, the set pieces, and trying constantly to get in touch with their studio partner.
This brings me to one of the aspects that I wonder about with Stan & Ollie. What did Ollie bring to the duo? The film shows Ollie as a man who has charm, comedic talent and he clearly has a great rapport with Stan but all the work that goes into crafting their stage performances seem to originate from the mind of Stan.
I’m not saying John C. Reilly’s performance is poor, far from it, it’s just an intriguing look at how the two worked together. Both characters have flaws and major chips on their shoulders and they feel like an old married couple and it can be heartbreaking at times.
Stan & Ollie is also a history lesson for fans of these two individuals as the audience learns a lot about their whole career. For example, Stan had worked with Charlie Chaplin early in his career and Ollie even throws shade at him stating that Ollie believes he should be as big as Charlie. It blows your mind knowing how small the entertainment world could be.
There are two other stars of this show and they are the better halves of Stan and Ollie. Ida Kitaeva Laurel and Lucille Hardy are the great women behind these men and they are absolutely fantastic. A character makes a joke in the film that we get two double acts for the price of one when he meets Ida and Lucille and he is right. Nina Arianda and Shirley Henderson are superb in their roles. They bounce off each other as well as the male leads and they bring a further human element to these larger than life characters.
Stan & Ollie is brilliant. There are one or two nitpicks that keep it from that perfect score and honestly it comes from an all too predictable story. This is their last outing together, there is a bit of bad blood and you know where the characters will end up by the end of the film.
Thankfully the film is more of a character piece and with characters this memorable you’re going to have a great time.