Stan & Ollie is a charming and funny film that explores how a loving friendship can empower and nurture those involved, but also drive them away from each other. Directed by Jon S. Baird and starring John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy and Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel, this duo is just as charismatic and intelligent as the men they are portraying.
The film begins in 1973, at the peak of Laurel and Hardy’s career, where they are making more pictures than ever but are severely underpaid in comparison to other comedians and dynamic duos. Stan Laurel tries to bump up his and Hardy’s salaries, but when the request is dismissed by their co-producer Hal Roach (Danny Huston) Laurel heads to Fox, assuming that Hardy will follow. It is now sixteen years later and with the odd couple struggling with finances, a tour is in order and it all begins in Newcastle. To begin with, the already small theatres are left half empty and the pair are living a less than glamorous life. However, when the two begin to partake in photo opportunities and publicity stunts, the public are reminded of their love for Stan and Ollie and the show is a hit!
The shows begin to take a toll on the men, both physically and mentally, putting a large amount of strain on their friendship. When the two have a very public argument, onlookers are so used to their jovial performances that they assume it’s a skit. This scene in particular sheds a light on the blurred lines between the performer’s real personalities and their fictional personas, the public as well as Stan and Ollie are not quite sure where the performance ends and their real lives begin.
The performance of Reilly and Coogan is outstanding, with every little hand gesture and syllable spoken so well researched and performed it is hard to tell the difference between the two duos.
While the film does explore the comedic pair’s relationship outside of their careers, the film does not dwell on the dark side and instead injects Laurel and Hardy’s signature comedic routines and back and forth throughout the film, providing a refreshingly balanced tone to the film.
Stan & Ollie perfectly portrays the complexities and struggles of a deep and loving friendship between two men, as well as their relationship to Hollywood and fame. This is a light-hearted, funny film that will make you appreciate the friendship you have and the comedic geniuses that were Laurel and Hardy.
Image Courtesy of BBC Films