by British Awakening – 29 Jan 2019
Every now and then someone makes a biopic that actually enhances the reputation of an historical character. Stan and Ollie is a movie that does exactly that taking a closer look at the less well known later years in the careers of the famous comedy duo of Laurel and Hardy.
Set in 1953 Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) has arranged a tour of variety halls across Britain and Ireland to relaunch their careers, the promise of a new movie for the duo forming one of the themes of the film. Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) despite health problems is a wiling participant in Stan’s project.
Despite a bumpy start to the tour (many of the venues were minor ones and not exactly a sell out), they gradually turn things around as the quality of their act and their unfailing ability to make people laugh shines through. Certainly it has made me re-assess them, whilst I have always been fond of Laurel and Hardy I perhaps never really appreciated the genius of their act.
The film allows both characters to air unspoken grievances from the past, far from driving a wedge between them the bond between the two men grows stronger, particularly as Oliver’s health problems come to the fore. This for me was the joy of the movie, it avoided the obvious direction so many movies take by way of a cynical examination of their relationship but instead concentrated on the love the two men had for each other and the pleasure they took from making people laugh.
For all of their fame, both men come across as decent, kind, humble men, and perhaps it was this aspect of their characters that led to their enduring success, at some level audiences throughout the decades could sense that these men were gentle souls that asked nothing of the world other than to make us laugh.
There have only been a handful of times when I have known an audience to sit through the closing credits, this was one of them as original footage of Laurel and Hardy performing a silly dance routine reminded us all of their innocent charm. Go and see this movie and remind yourself of a time when humour was kind and innocent.
Directed By: Jon S. Baird
Written By: Jeff Pope
Runtime: 97 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Stan & Ollie | Official US Trailer HD (2018)
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