The film is a celebration of their lives whilst visiting some of the darkest times
Opening with a simply wonderful tracking shot paving its way across a film studio, Stan And Ollie sets out to please and entertain as soon as its beautiful colour palette lights up the screen. Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) prepare to film one of their most famous features, Way Out West, and as the shot dances behind and around them, the pair are brought to life by two performers clearly in admiration of the men they are playing. Stan And Ollie is very much a film based on love, and that is clear even before the tone of the film is completely set in place.
Tracking the unfamiliar end to their career, Stan And Ollie is a love letter to the pair of adored slapstick actors who reigned over cinema from 1937 to the late 50’s. Helmed by John S. Baird, previously recognised for his incredible work on the Scottish film Filth, the feature follows the pair as they tour around the UK promoting their shows in every way possible after diminishing popularity and languishing ticket sales threaten the future of their careers.
There is a glow around Stan And Ollie that makes it so effortless to watch. It’s such a charming production, and that comes from some wonderful direction, a marvellous script and excellent performances from the leading pair. The introduction of physical comedy to their real life scenarios suggests a real closeness to the films they were producing, and the pair were absolutely key to its success.
Appearing in much of the feature’s second half, the duo’s wives are introduced as key components to their characteristics, not just as a side show. Played by Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda, they act as each other’s opposite, with their dedication to their husbands made utmost clear through a passion for their work and a defence of their character. Baird has worked hard to show just how key the pair were to keeping Laurel And Hardy standing as a duo whilst still appearing with their own individuality.
Stan And Ollie is almost a visual love letter to the men adored by so many. The film is a celebration of their lives whilst visiting some of the darkest times. The difficulty they go through never once fades their legacy, and Baird has coupled that with Jeff Pope’s wonderful script exploring what made them the men they were. It’s a joyous piece with a glow resembling one of a shining star; it’s been there for decades but never will it truly fade.
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