Before I begin my review of the film, I have to confess, and apologise, for a couple of things.
Firstly – I hate slapstick comedy. I understand why some people enjoy it, it’s pure, simple and silly humour, I just find it a little childish. Ironically, I love a good fart joke! To each, their own I suppose.
Secondly – I did not know that Stan & Ollie referred to Laurel & Hardy. I know, I know, I’m sorry! My ignorance of their genre of comedy was further exaggerated on the ride home when I asked Mark if Laurel & Hardy were also known as Little & Large. **For those in the same boat as me, the answer is no. Little & Large are a completely different comedy duo.**
All that being said, I actually really enjoyed this movie, so without further ado, read on…
Rather than the more typical rise-to-fame type biopic, Stan & Ollie focuses on their 1953 tour of Britain, at the tail-end of their careers, and the special relationship between one of the world’s most renowned comedy pairings, all expertly portrayed by Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly. Both Reilly and Coogan are comedians in their own right, but deliver arguably the best performances of their careers, with a great degree of respect, dignity and sensitivity and I hope that one or both of them get the recognition they deserve this award season.
There were several points during the film that showcase the performances that earned Laurel & Hardy such critical acclaim. According to Mark, and judging by the reaction of the audience at the cinema, these scenes were accurately portrayed. These scenes though, were my least favourite in the film, but this may be due to my attitude towards this type of comedy.
The calm, deferential demeanor of the two main actors was perfectly offset by the far more energetic and argumentative personalities of their two wives, Lucille and Ida, delightfully portrayed by Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda respectively. In fact, the no-nonsense, slightly formidable, attitude of Ida, for me, provided the more genuine laugh-out-loud moments of the movie.
Everything about this film was believable, nothing appeared to be exaggerated or overly embellished. The sets were uncomplicated and understated, almost a perfect embodiment of the more refrained off-screen personalities of Stan and Ollie. The film was skillfully shot, opening with the iconic image of the two bowler hats, followed by an impressive four-minute tracking shot through the Hollywood studios.
There are some undeniably funny moments scattered throughout this film, but the main focal points of Stan & Ollie is friendship, love and heart (literally, at times), and that is what makes this film a must see.
So as always, regardless of your opinion of slapstick comedy, go and see this film for yourselves. Make up your own minds and let me know what you think. I am particularly intrigued to hear the thoughts of those who already know and love the work of the two chaps in bowler hats.
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Stan & Ollie is now available to watch on DVD.