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Film Review: Stan & Ollie

PUBLISHED: 17:16 18 January 2019

Steve Coogan and John C Reilly as the classic comedy duo Laurel and Hardy in the touching bio-pic Stan & Ollie Photo: BBC Films

Steve Coogan and John C Reilly as the classic comedy duo Laurel and Hardy in the touching bio-pic Stan & Ollie Photo: BBC Films

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Enjoy Woodbridge More's new film reviewer Mark Goodin gives his view on the Laurel and Hardy biopic Stan & Ollie.

After 2013’s relentlessly grim and compelling black comedy crime drama Filth, Jon S. Baird follows his second directorial feature with an altogether different, but nonetheless equally affecting, work which focuses on the twilight years of iconic comic duo Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) as they embark on a theatre tour through the United kingdom.

Baird’s fondness of his subjects bleeds into every frame with Jeff Pope’s witty, inventive screenplay and Laurie Rose’s warm, intimate cinematography capturing, as impresario Bernard Delfont (a splendid Rufus Jones) notes, the ‘beautiful madness’ of their routines as well as imbuing the more complex aspects of their relationship - long buried tensions from the past and Hardy’s ailing health frequently threatening the pair’s friendship and careers - with a palpable sense of melancholy.

It is this dextrous balance of humour and sadness that keeps the film grounded when it occasionally threatens to tip into the overly sentimental.

Much of the film’s true brilliance, however, lies to two career best performances from Coogan and Reilly, perfectly capturing the lively patter and barely concealed resentments as they continue on their increasingly successful tour.

Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda are also strong as their supportive, caring wives. Arianda is especially brilliant as Laurel’s shamelessly rude and boisterous wife Ida.

Reilly and Coogan’s fine central turns power this loving, bittersweet tribute to one of cinema’s greatest double acts.

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