More movies like this, please.
Funny how Stan & Ollie didn’t get a single Oscar nomination this year and yet John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan both gave better performances than the majority of those that the Academy nominated for Best Lead Actor.
From director Jon S. Baird — creator of Filth with James McAvoy, which is a movie that I did not like at all — comes a new biopic about Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, appropriately titled Stan & Ollie.
If those names don’t ring a bell, you’re best bet would be to either ask a film student or your grandmother.
In the 1930s, Laurel (Reilly) and Hardy (Reilly) were all the rage when it came to comedy. You had your stand-alone acts like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, sure, but Laurel and Hardy were really the first comedic duo in Hollywood — eventually paving the way for those like Abbott and Costello or Cheech and Chong to follow in their footsteps.
As is always the case in life, though, the relationship between the two didn’t last forever.
In 1937, Laurel and Hardy found themselves on opposing sides while making contract negotiations with Hollywood studios. At the time, Laurel was frustrated with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s producer Hal Roach (Danny Huston) and wanted to switch over to Fox, while Hardy insisted that they remained loyal.
That lead to a falling out between the two of them that lasted for nearly 15 years.
Granted, a falling out between Laurel and Hardy is different than a falling out between any other two people, at least in the way it’s displayed in Stan & Ollie. Instead of getting mad, yelling or swearing at one another, they both just express their displeasure in one another’s actions and politely agree not to see each other anymore.
Always gentlemen, those two.
Come 1953, however, and Laurel has come up with an idea. They’re both a little bit short on money, you see, and could use a boost in their careers — so why not get back together and take the world by storm once again?
Maybe, he figures, they’ll be able to bounce back from oblivion and finally earn enough to fund the long-awaited Robin Hood movie they’ve been dreaming about making ever since they initially teamed-up.
Hardey quickly agrees to the plan and, before their significant others — Lucille Hardy (Shirley Henderson) and Ida Kitaeva Laurel (Nina Arianda), who honestly should have their own spin-off movie as they’re both excellent in Stan & Ollie — have any time to object, they’re off on a reunion tour throughout Europe.
A tour comes with a few very important lessons on what it means to be an aging star in Hollywood, as Laurel and Hardy are slightly displeased to see the crowds that they draw in are only small fractions of the audiences they used to apprehend.
And it’s crazy, really, that it took Hollywood this long to make a film like Stan & Ollie.
Granted, this isn’t the first time that Laurel and Hardy have been depicted in film and it likely won’t be the last, but it’s one of the few and more high-profile to actually take this kind of approach to the two individuals.
Which is why I’m really bummed this movie hasn’t been getting more attention. Guys, Stan & Ollie is kind of great and really sweet and heart-warming.
I was well aware of who Laurel and Hardy were prior to seeing Stan & Ollie. Yes, I wasn’t born until nearly thirty years until after they had both passed away, but I remember studying them in school and was well aware of the legacy that they left behind.
Yet, there was so much portrayed in Stan & Ollie that I had no idea about.
I had no clue they had this kind of falling out, or that they tried to recapture their fame so late in their careers, or how big of a role their wives played in all of this, or any of the other numerous things that happens throughout the film that I’m not going to spoil.
Yes, I could probably have learned all that online or in a documentary, but the thing about Stan & Ollie is that it makes it so much fun to learn more about these characters, the inner-demons that they’re facing and what they really mean to one another.
The movie opens with this glorious one-shot that feels like it goes on for almost ten minutes, in which we see Laurel and Hardy walk through a number of different Hollywood sound stages while trying to carry a conversation. That conversation keeps getting interrupted by all the different things that get in their way — Roman soldiers or cowboys who are in the middle of filming — but they still manage to carry on and continue talking about completely unrelated things.
That winds up being a metaphor for the whole film, really, as we follow the relationship between these two and everything that tries to get in their way. That winds up not only being an informative experience, but a really impactful and meaningful one as well.
Impactful in a way that presents Laurel and Hardy as the way they really well — innocent jokesters — while also not shying away from some of the more unpleasant parts of their lives, such as Laurel’s alcoholism or Hardy’s multiple wives.
Writer Jeff Pope knows exactly how to present that, too, as he’s wise enough not to try and tell the entire life story of these two, like Bohemian Rhapsody tried to do, but rather is similar to something like Lincoln or Selma and just focuses in on one important event that can ripple into so much more.
And, as mentioned before, Coogan and Reilly deserve all the credit in the world for their performances here, too. Coogan and Reilly are both recognizable actors we’ve seen countless times before, but the way they’re able to disappear into these characters is really quite astonishing.
Stan & Ollie is a feel-good treat that, honestly, is better than most of the other stuff that’s in theaters right now. If it’s playing anywhere near you, it’s worth seeking out.
Watch the trailer for Stan & Ollie and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the film!
'Stan & Ollie' - a heartwarming breath of fresh air [REVIEW]9