The Movie Waffler London Film Festival 2018 Review - STAN & OLLIE | The Movie Waffler

London Film Festival 2018 Review - STAN & OLLIE

STAN & OLLIE review
The comic duo embark on a tour of 1950s Britain.

Review by Musanna Ahmed

Directed by: Jon S. Baird

Starring: Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda

stan & ollie poster

This biopic of Laurel and Hardy’s final period together won't change your perception of the lovable comedy duo in any way, unless for some reason you hate them. Stan & Ollie is wholesome and pleasant, born out of the wholesome, pleasant partnership between the two legendary entertainers. This biopic follows them in the early 1950s, when their film career has declined, as they embark on a theatre tour throughout Britain for a fanbase that still adores them.

STAN & OLLIE review

Stan & Ollie quietly explores why their fanbase has dwindled so much by this time. Both performers appear to be largely unproblematic - you can virtually see halos floating above their heads. However, the problem with them is that they’re relying on the same old routine, which some audience members still enjoy but is likely unreliable for film producers, who are tightening their creative control. This is again indicated when their tour consists of a largely silent show, reminiscent of their prolific output during the silent era. Director Jon S. Baird strays from the historical context of their film production, so perhaps the truth is that a lot of people were simply bored of Laurel and Hardy.

STAN & OLLIE review

Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly fit the shoes of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy with the help of top-notch makeup and prosthetics work, especially for Reilly. Beneath the fake skin, the actor finds the humanity in the character, portraying Ollie as a gentle, funny, loving man who would love to work with Stan for the rest of his life. Stan, on the other hand, has a chip on his shoulder for reasons detailed in the only scene of conflict midway through the film. Coogan brings unsuspecting humour and subtle somberness to his depiction of the man. Together, on stage and on camera, their recreations of Stan and Ollie’s comedy routines are verisimilitudinous.

Another funny double act is their significant others, Ida Kitaeva Laurel (Nina Arianda) and Lucille Hardy (Shirley Henderson, stealthily delivering the most entertaining performance). The actresses’ chemistry is impressively built by a relationship which entails sarcastic, passive-aggressive interaction between their characters and a mutual rejection of theatre impresario Bernard Delfont (Rufus Jones).

STAN & OLLIE review

As far as comparisons in classic cinema biopics go, this is no Chaplin, though that may be simply because Charlie had a much more interesting life. Still, it’s hard to be disappointed with the well-intentioned Stan & Ollie. Once the conversations about acting nominations for the central performers is over, this film may not have much of a legacy, but it’s good for the moment (releasing amid mostly adult dramas) as perfectly serviceable middlebrow entertainment that can be enjoyed by the whole family, just like the films of Laurel and Hardy.

Stan & Ollie is in UK/ROI cinemas January 11th, 2019.

2018 movie reviews