Stan & Ollie
The untold story of the world's greatest comedy act.
Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly play comedy duo Laurel and Hardy in this biopic that covers the duo's 1953 British variety hall tour. Written by Oscar nominee Jeff Pope (Philomena).
"In 1953, several years after their last film and with their immense celebrity on the wane, Stan ‘Laurel’ and Ollie ‘Hardy’ embark on a gig tour of British seaside towns and music halls. Surprised by the modesty of the bookings and cramped little guesthouses, the tour starts off subdued. They struggle for audiences and their booking agent seems disinterested. But a series of TV guest spots and celebrity appearances soon rekindle the country’s interest in their genius and the buzz grows as they head towards a big London finale. As the attention builds, so too do old resentments, coming to a head as they’re joined by ‘the wives’, Lucille and Ida (Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda)" (London Film Festival).
- Jon S. Baird('Filth', 'Vinyl')
Comedy, Drama, True Story & Biography, Historical
Rating: PG Coarse language
USA, UK, Canada
Director Jon S. Baird follows up the fabulously frenetic Filth with a decidedly more restrained, traditional biopic, following Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy’s (John C. Reilly) 1953 live stage tour of the UK. The former giants of screen comedy are growing old, their popularity waning, their bank accounts empty. Reunited after years apart, each bearing a grudge against the other for the split, they perform to near-empty theatres, hoping to secure funding for a comeback movie.
They begin touring purely for the money, but come to realise they’re really performing for the love of show over business. It’s a simple message, simply told. Long, theatrical takes allow the actors to perform in real time, highlighting their meticulously timed slapstick. So in synch, they’re as married to each other as their long-suffering wives, excellently played by Nina Arianda and Shirley Henderson, as partners caught in a constant double-act of their own.
Jeff Pope’s script cleverly incorporates some of the duo’s most famous routines into their life, from dropping a trunk down a flight of stairs, to squabbling over a hotel reception bell. Life and art are so entangled, when they fight at a party, the assembled guests laugh and clap, mistaking their bitter dispute for part of the act.
Lending life to the legends, Coogan and Reilly are a perfectly matched pair, with Reilly’s chubby, double-chinned make-up and prosthetics a seamless blend of art and artifice. Simultaneously sad, funny, melancholy and celebratory, it’s a superbly acted tale of the love of two comics for their craft and, against all odds, each other.
The Telegraph (UK)
The Times (UK)
Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)
Good story but a bit slow and tiresome. Nina Arianda plays her part really well. Luckily it wasn't overly long but still hard to focus at times.