Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Stan & Ollie - Review

If you asked anyone who watched Jon S. Baird's adaptation of Irvine Welsh's Filth that featured a career-best performance from James McAvoy what his next project would be, it is doubtful any of them would have picked a biopic of one of the greatest comedy duos of all-time Laurel and Hardy.
The two are worlds apart with the only real connection being that Bruce Robinson would have certainly gotten them into plenty of fine messes.
However it is clear with every frame of Stan & Ollie that Baird is a genuine fan of the double act and that love and appreciation shines through the screen. Whether that be in a pitch perfect recreation of their iconic dance from Way Out West or their hilarious theatrical stage routines.
However Baird is not afraid to peek behind the curtain and show that behind the make up and fame was a very tumultuous and complicated relationship between the two performers.
Biopics that play out as simple rags-to-riches tales that speed through all the big moments like a jukebox musical playing all the hits can be crowdpleasing but ultimately shallow and dull affairs (*cough* Bohemian Rhapsody*). It is refreshing to find one that focuses on a story or period of history that the public may not be too familiar with in order to show the world who these people really are (or were).
Following the acrimonious break up of the duo due to Laurel's stubbornness over his contract, the two went their separate ways before falling on harder times and reuniting for a theatre tour in the UK with the eye on securing finance for a future film that would put them back on top.
As the two former partners and friends travel round the country performing some of their classic routines to audiences who have moved on with the times, it is clear that they are carrying round more baggage than just their carry on luggage.
The performances of Steve Coogan as Laurel and John C. Reilly as Hardy are spot on, with Reilly disappearing under some impressive make up to become the duo and the two actors spark off each other both on stage and off as they seek to resolve their differences before it's too late.
The chemistry between the two transfers over to the other relationships in their lives, their wives (played with steel and scene-stealing guile by Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda) but it is clear who the real love of their lives was. It is no coincidence that Laurel (and others) refer to Hardy as "Babe".
The result is an affectionate tribute that packs a surprisingly emotional punch that will have audiences crying tears of sadness and laughter to the point their faces will look like another fine mess they have gotten themselves into.

4 stars

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