A treat for any fan of old-time Hollywood, Stan & Ollie is much more than just a biopic about the famous black and white film comedy duo Stan Laurel and Ollie Hardy, its also a rich story about friendships, rivalries and the fleeting flame of fame.
Stan Laurel and Ollie Hardy were cinematic legends in the 1930s. They were in dozens of films together and most were box office hits. Famous for their physical humor and play on words, the timing, and chemistry the two had was honed by years of working together and a playful friendship. After a fall out with film producer and comedian Hal Roach (Danny Huston), Stan Laurel was dismissed from filming and Ollie Hardy tried to make films without him but couldn’t find the same camaraderie with another partner.
Fast Forward a decade, the funds and opportunities of both performers are bleak. They agree to go on a European tour to attempt to revive their careers and this is the primary focus of the film Stan & Ollie.
The performances of Steve Coogan (Stan Laurel) and John C. Reilley (Ollie Hardy) are staggeringly accurate to the mannerisms, vocal tones and actions of the men they are portraying. Neither actor particularly resembles the man he is playing but with remarkable make-up, false teeth and ears, a fat suit costume and wig work, the actors disappear into their roles.
As their friendship and the tour stumbles along, things become more complicated when the duo’s wives join the tour. Shirley Henderson (Lucille Hardy) and Nina Arianda (Ida Kitaevs Laurel) have a rivalry on numerous levels. On the surface, it appears as if they debate only about their husband’s careers and the way they interact, but a deeper rivalry exists. That of women who both envy and abhor each other. Lucille was a lowly script girl and married into money and the Hollywood lifestyle. Ida Laurel was a star in her own right in Russia and she longs for the attention and glamour the life afforded her. Watching the four characters paw and mew at each other over shimmering candlelit in white linen restaurants is nothing short of delicious.
The film is shot in beautiful muted tones which along with the era accurate costumes, hair, set design and music make for a fulfilling viewing experience all around. This is not just for fans of the comedy duo, or lovers of old Hollywood, this film is a solid story about goals, talent, friendship, and love and the messy path to fulfilling them all.
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Director: Jon S. Baird
Writer: Jeff Pope
Starring: John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Danny Huston, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda
Runtime: 98 mins
Release Date: 1/25
MPAA Rating: PG