Stan & Ollie - This Movie Tender-Rocks
Dir: Jon S. Baird
Starring Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda, Danny Huston, Rufus Jones
Stan & Ollie is a wonderfully well cast movie. Not only do Coogan and Reilly capture the voices, the mannerisms, and the look of Laurel and Hardy, they find through their performances the men behind the image and, as the film progresses, their ultimate love for each other. For Stan & Ollie is above all else a love story, and a charming one.
We first join the boys at the height of their success making Way Out West in 1936, but the majority of the film takes place in 1953, at a time when their careers are all but over and they are reduced to touring the UK, in a sad attempt at trying to recapture their former glories, now on stage and through a series of increasingly humiliating public appearances. As indeed he was, Coogan’s Laurel is the compulsive worker of the group, writing material for a film that will never be made, and always looking for the next gag. Reilly’s Ollie – or “Babe” as he was known to all – is far more content to take life easy, regret his money draining former marriages, drink and eat too much and try not to lose his remaining money on the horses.
As the tour progresses, Coogan and Reilly deliver a number of classic routines – from The Trail of the Lonesome Pine to the County Hospital bed scene (“I brought you some hard boiled eggs and some nuts”) and more – all of them note-perfectly recreated and delivered with aplomb. Again, as throughout the film, there is more than enough going on with these two actors to ensure that as close as this is to impersonation, there is enough subtly and detail to always allow us to glimpse the men behind the image. It’s a delicate balancing act, but one that both actors, and director Baird, accomplish with great skill.
And by the time that old tensions rise and erupt into a verbal fight between the two, you can’t help but feel your heart break just a little.
Fans of Laurel and Hardy should love this film, because it is a loving film. Those less familiar (if such an animal exists) should also be impressed hugely by this gentle, bittersweet and poignant look at the end of greatness, and the sadness that brings with it.
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