To this day, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are still regarded as one of the greatest comedy duos. Their acts used slapstick comedy, cartoon violence and song to delight audiences. From 1927 all the way up to 1955, they performed these acts together both on screen and on stage.
Something that really made me smile about Stan & Ollie was the fact that both Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly’s careers are rooted in comedy. Coogan is known for playing Alan Partridge and Reilly is known for numerous roles in American comedy films. What better way to pay homage to such an iconic comedy act. Both lead actors took to their roles superbly, and I loved both equally. It was a joy to follow them as they took us on tour, recreating iconic routines that made it impossible to look away from the screen.
I was captivated throughout, genuinely finding myself laughing out loud at these comedy routines that have aged like a fine wine. Even now, they’re absolutely hilarious. Coogan and Reilly worked perfectly together, embodying all that we know and love about Laurel and Hardy whilst revealing intimate secrets that took place from behind the stage curtain. Although their careers were comedic, some of their life experiences certainly weren’t.
The duos wives also make an appearance, and are equally as delightful to watch. Lucille Hardy (Shirley Henderson) and Ida Kitaeva Laurel (Nina Arianda) are a double act themselves, with very different beliefs and personalities. I loved the dynamic between the two women and found myself laughing out loud at them too. Despite their differences, they are both overbearing wives who think they know what’s best for their respective husbands, often with some very emotional results. I really can’t fault the casting at all, it was just magical to watch.
Aesthetically, I adored Stan & Ollie and what a treat it was to see Newcastle back in the day! The set and costume design is just gorgeous as the two embark on a rather exhausting tour of the UK, and we get a glimpse of so many cities and the different audiences that attend each night. We see the duos struggles and successes, each scene delivering a different emotional tug. Our heart sinks as we see the empty seats, and rises again as they start to draw in more and more crowds. The camera speaks louder than words a lot of the time, knowing exactly what to show the audience in order to mirror what the characters are feeling.
It is impossible to document every waking moment of Laurel and Hardy’s lives, but this biopic still manages to show us a lot in a relatively short space of time. With a runtime of 1 hour and 37 minutes, it would have been easy for it to fall flat and leave audiences wishing they’d seen more. But in my opinion, that didn’t happen. Whilst we were dropped into the story with their careers in full swing, it didn’t feel like we’d missed out on anything. The film requires a little knowledge about the duo before watching, but you don’t need a history lesson in order to enjoy it to the full.
For me, this was the epitome of a great biopic. Coogan and Reilly looked the part, they acted the part, and they made their audience laugh both on-screen and in the cinema. I laughed, I cried, and I had a brilliant time that I can see myself wanting to revisit in the near future. The epilogue was so emotionally charged that I had to stay in my seat and wipe away tears for a few minutes, and that says everything about what a perfect film this was. I’m delighted that it is my first five star review of 2019!
Have you seen Stan & Ollie? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below!