“Stan & Ollie” Review
Laurel and Hardy are as iconic as they come when it comes to comedy. Stan & Ollie covers the time they spent on tour in Britain in 1953. No longer in their prime, Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) are trying to regain their popularity and reach their fans on a personal level. During their tour, they face many ups and downs, but what prevails is their love of performance and their love for one another.
I will admit, I didn’t have very high expectations for this film going into the theater, but boy did it surprise me. Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are comedic geniuses in their own right and have careers that are impressive and long. Not only do they nail absolutely every single moment of comedy in the film, but they bring about a real emotional element to the film. From their struggles to stay relevant in a quickly changing world, to the struggles they face with their marriages, and Ollie’s declining health, the film really sneaks up on you and resonates emotionally with the audience more than I ever anticipated.
The film relies mostly on Coogan and Reilly on-screen and spends little time with other characters. The exception is that we get some time at the end of the film with their wives played by Nina Arianda (Ida Laurel) and Shirley Henderson (Lucille Hardy). I loved the back and forth banter of these two very different women. Ida was an Eastern European dancer with the stereotypical cold Russian woman’s demeanor, lack of filter, and flair for the dramatic.
On the other hand, Lucille is the more typical American housewife, slightly overbearing, but a fighter for her husband’s health and well-being. These two characters work together almost as another comedic duo in the film and add another level of comedy to the story as well.
What is spectacular about the performances from both Coogan and Reilly is that despite being famous actors themselves, they manage to disappear into their characters. After a few minutes, you completely forget that you are watching Coogan and Reilly and believe they are the famous comedic duo, Laurel and Hardy.
The screenwriter, Jeff Pope, really captures the emotion of the story by focusing on the relationships in the film. Not only does he capture the complicated relationship between Laurel and Hardy as they try to regain their former fame, but also the complex relationship that actors and performers have with fame itself and their audience. The writing and story capture that difficulty of reconnecting with fans and staying relevant in an age that continues to change and adjust to new things. That relationship with fame, money, and of course, notoriety is the driving force behind their need to tour in Britain.
The makeup design Stan & Ollie is just incredible. John C. Reilly is unrecognizable and transforms into Ollie. From the rotund shape that he must take on in this film, each little detail is accounted for in makeup. Even his hands are done in the film to match the rest of his body. It is magical what they have done.
Stan & Ollie works so well to capture the beautiful and complex friendship between two iconic comedians of the golden age of Hollywood. John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan are sensational as Stan and Ollie. It is a touching film about valuing the friendships you’ve made even as the fame and glitz of the Hollywood life start to fade. It is about coming back to the things that truly matter in life: friendship, happiness, and appreciation of the things you have.