Starring: Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Nina Arianda, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston, Rufus Jones. Directed by: Jon S. Baird.
As it’s January, we’re right in the middle of awards season; all the films coming out are for your consideration and it’s time for us to look at the films that could potentially become ‘Best Picture’ nominations. From that comes Stan & Ollie, a perfect example of a film that is an ‘awards movie’ but also one that works on its own terms.
Stan & Ollie focusses in on forty days of Laurel and Hardy’s careers in which both men, now in their sixties and hard on their luck and fame, went on a gruelling tour of the United Kingdom in the hopes of getting another film off the ground.
Unlike other biopics taking the world by storm (the decade spanning, unfocussed Bohemian Rhapsody for example), Stan & Ollie wisely only looks at this final chapter in the lives of these two comic icons and plays the film as a kind-hearted look at friendship and love.
It’s a departure for director Jon S Baird’s debut film – the vulgar, mean spirited but utterly brilliant Filth – but it shows a range a director which cannot be faulted. Here, Baird casts his two leads so perfectly they don’t just appear to be physically re-creating the double act, but inhabit the inner life and the behind-the-scenes elements that make the characters.
Steve Coogan and John C Reilly are perfect as the comic duo, able to recreate their physical skits and their double act routines but also able to show the loving relationship between the two. The insight the film has is that they were put together, and had no real need to like one another but did through their lives and what they went through.
What really works most of all, however, is the recreation of the comedy routines, one unbroken sequence shows the duo perform a double door routine which is genuinely laugh out loud funny and shows that the two actors can perform like the great duo they are playing.
The film as a whole has a gentility to it, it’s not about fire and fury, it’s about the twilight of two people’s lives and wants to entertain, to move and to raise a smile from it’s running time. It may not be to everyone’s taste, at times it assumes a level of love for the duo that might be lost on younger viewers, but what it lacks in bite it makes up for in heart and it may prove to be the most enjoyable movie of this awards season.
Paul Klein is a Film Studies Graduate from London, former writer at The Metropolist.