FILM REVIEW: Stan & Ollie

Now Showing: Stan & Ollie
Now Showing: Stan & Ollie

Jon S Baird's Stan & Ollie is less a basic biopic for two of Hollywood's national - nay, global - treasures and more a celebration of them.


I walked into a packed theatre - of all ages - and sat down, with a drink and a snack, expecting a fun, dramatic-comedy that would tide me over for two hours and be relatively dispensable. But then two hours passed and as I sat in that chair processing what I had just watched, I realised that tears had built up at the back of my eyes.

I won't even pretend to have as much of an emotional connection to these icons as some people have: they were long before my time. Personally, I grew up with the comedic works of Jim Carrey, Friends and Scooby Doo sculpting my sense of humour.

Though I think that comes as a testament to this film and its subject, as while all logical analysis and pattern recognition points to me sitting in that chair with my arms crossed and a furrowed brow formed atop my face like the moody teen I’m supposed to be: Stan and Ollie - not Laurel and Hardy - spoke to me and warmed my cold, teenage heart.

I laughed out loud, as did everyone around me. We watched and laughed in awe as two men of Hollywood legend made the leap from the Roaring 1920s to the bitter 2010s without so much as flinching: because Performance was what they lived for.

More than almost any other film I have seen, Stan & Ollie highlights the wonder of performance.

Without spoilers, their gut-wrenching commitment to making people laugh was what almost melted me into a human puddle.

Steve Coogan and John C Reilly bring Stan and Ollie, respectively, to the modern day without flaw.

Reilly clearly shines through his loveable and huggable rendition of Ollie but Coogan should be given as much credit for his layered and nuanced portrayal of Stan, nailing both his pitch-perfect comedic timing and the complexities of his emotional life.

It is, therefore, unfortunate that emotional investment goes no further than this: as while the comedic writing is hysterical, the poorly crafted emotional and dramatic beats fall flat on their face like in a silent-comedy slapstick sketch - though with nowhere near as much entertainment value.

Parts of the production design do feel a little too modern (sixty-five years makes a lot of difference and I don't think some of those hallways acknowledge it) but that's but a speck on the gloriously fifties glimmer and grime tint that defines this film. Or rather, underscores it.

Defining this film is the precept of showmanship and companionship, as well as the immense love Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy had for their craft.

These men epitomise cinema, and showmanship, and comedy, and craft, and pride in one's craft.

Almost everyone knows of them, but too few people know them, and if Stan & Ollie achieves anything of cultural significance - then I hope it gets greater recognition for these legends. More than most, they deserve a standing ovation. And this film gives them one.