Film Review: Stan & Ollie

Jon S. Baird’s Stan & Ollie is a lovingly-crafted portrait of the comedy duo. The strong performances certainly add to this.

It is 1953, and comedy double act Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are about to embark on a tour of Britain. The duo aim to reignite their career with the tour, which they are hoping will lead to a new film…

Directed by Jon S. Baird with a screenplay by Jeff Pope, Stan & Ollie focuses on the double act later in their career. This is a good choice, for there is more meat with their career in decline. The film is really about fading lights chasing a second chance, than stars on the rise. The story begins with the pair embarking on their tour in the UK. This set up works well; it is sad to see duo perform half-empty shows at the beginning of the tour, and illustrates that they are far from Hollywood.

As expected, Stan & Ollie concentrates on the relationship between the duo. Everyone know how well they work together on screen, so the film explores their real-life relationship. Baird delves into the gamut of emotions during this later period. The film incorporates some of their skits; the comedy here is gentle at best. There is more amusement to be found from the relationship of their wives, and their interactions with a flamboyant tour manager.

Performances from John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan are great. It is clear a lot of care has gone into getting the moves and mannerisms spot on. Nevertheless, Reilly’s prosthetics are very distracting; it may take a while to get used to them. Nina Arianda is a joy as Ida, and Rufus Jones is perfect as Bernard. The score is a little overblown at times. 

Stan & Ollie is a comforter of a movie, harking back to a bygone era. There is nothing remarkable about the film, but it tells the story engagingly enough, and performances impress.

Stan & Ollie closes the BFI London Film Festival on 21st October 2018.

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