"Although not perfect in all its aspects, Stan & Ollie is a film that, in its own way, wants to celebrate Hollywood’s Golden Age by telling the story of a friendship"
Presented as the London Film Festival’s Closing Night Gala and just released now, Stan & Ollie recreates the nostalgic feeling of Hollywood post war with a story about life long friendship at the end of an era in movie making.
Directed by Jon S. Baird, the film follows the American comedian duo during their last UK theatre tour of their careers as Laurel and Hardy.
The cinematography and directing style is impeccable in recreating that era of movie making made of glossy lives and novelty. However, Baird is capable of showing both the beauty of Hollywood as well as the truth behind the camera. Both Laurel and Hardy are almost at the end of their long and lasting career as a comic duo.
While Hardy is tired and wants to enjoy his family away from the spotlight, Laurel still wants to stretch their moment of glory with a new movie, pushing Hardy by using his guilt for being the reason why their peak of stardom was over too soon. Baird uses their antagonism and serious bickering in real life to show the discrepancy between reality and fantasy and how the pair has to keep the fantasy alive at all times, so much so that their friends and fans can’t tell fiction apart from realty even outside of the set.
The costume department has to take the cake for their achievements in bringing to the screen Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as Laurel and Hardy respectively. The two actors’ resemblance to the dynamic duo is more striking because of the hard work behind the costumes and make up.
That, along with the cinematography, as well as the performances, makes it easier for the audience to be transported back in time and follow Laurel and Hardy’s last leg of their careers.
Between the two, John C. Reilly is the one who is most authentic in portraying Hardy. His performance is just perfect and not over the top. He understands this iconic man who is now tired of the spotlight, but feels like he has to make it up to his long time friend. Reilly doesn’t just mimic Hardy or try to copy everything about him. He genuinely embraces everything about this man by grasping his personality.
Coogan is believable as Laurel. The actor brings to the screen the comedian’s desperate attempt to finish his career on a more than memorable high. However, Coogan tries too hard by constantly using Laurel as Stan’s tics, making his performance at times feels slightly forced and too parodic. Because of Coogan’s artistic choices, throughout the film, Laurel becomes the less likeable and relatable of the duo, although, at the end of the film, he has the chance to redeem himself and close the story with a beautiful note of nostalgia.
Although not perfect in all its aspects, Stan & Ollie is a film that, in its own way, wants to celebrate Hollywood’s Golden Age by telling the story of a friendship that is still lasting in everyone’s memories in spite of their real life ups and downs.