Monday, April 8, 2019

Stan & Ollie (2018)



"They had reached the top..."

The year was 1937. Comedic duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, simply known as Laurel and Hardy, were at the top of their game. While filming Way Out West, Laurel, who had been taking a more active role in the writing, direction and production of their films, had a falling out with producer Hal Roach. When Laurel parted ways with Roach, Hardy didn't follow suit and found a new partner in Harry Langdon. But there was no Hardy without Laurel and vice versa. The two quickly reunited and continued their legendary collaboration.

"We're not exactly spring chickens anymore."

Fast forward to 1953 when Laurel and Hardy are about to embark on their second European tour. They traveled all across the UK doing stage productions of their famous skits. The tour's main purpose is to drum up the needed support to make their next film, a spoof on Robin Hood, for the Associated British-Pathe studios. That film was never meant to be. This tour inevitably was to be their last hurrah. Before Hardy shuffled off his mortal coil and Laurel retired, they would prove once again that they could make 'em laugh.

Directed by Jon S. Baird, Stan & Ollie (2018) is a heartfelt ode to two comedic geniuses whose identities were inextricably tied to each other. Written by Jeff Pope and A.J. Marriot, the story focuses on Laurel and Hardy's final European tour in 1953 but dips back to 1937 when they were at a crossroads in their life and career.

The film stars Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly as Oliver "Babe" Hardy. Coogan and Reilly embody the spirit, the mannerisms, the personalities almost effortlessly. They really captured the magic of Laurel and Hardy's comedic chemistry and how their characters drew from their real life temperaments. It's quite astonishing how Coogan and Reilly transformed themselves into their characters. Reilly wears a prosthetic suit made to look different depending on if the scenes were set in 1937 or 1953. Usually prosthetics look rather fake but the make-up team on this movie did an amazing job because Reilly really indeed look like Hardy. They made several, more subtle changes to Coogan's appearance but they were still incredibly effective.

Coogan and Reilly are playing two sides of Laurel and Hardy. We see them as performers but much of the film is about them as business partners. Laurel is the tireless workaholic always coming up with new ideas and ventures and Hardy is the more relaxed fun loving one who just enjoys performing. Coogan and Reilly do a great job portraying both sides of their personalities and the film shows how these sides sometimes blend together.

Paralleling their story was Lucille Hardy (Shirley Henderson) and Ida Laurel (Nina Arianda), the two devoted wives who have their own comedic dynamic as polar opposite characters. Danny Huston plays the irate Hal Roach and Rufus Jones plays Bernie Delfont, the duo's tour manager.

By the end of the movie I was working my way through a box of tissues because I got so emotional. This is a beautiful film. A sincere portrait of a partnership and a friendship. It's essentially one big love story that turned me into a puddle of goo.

I watched this movie with my husband Carlos and he had confessed to me that he'd never seen a Laurel and Hardy film. I stopped Stan & Ollie to show him Liberty (1929) which is my favorite of their films. We also watched the original dance sequence from Way Out West (1937) which is recreated a couple of times by Coogan and Reilly in the film.

You don't have to know Laurel and Hardy to appreciate the film. However, if you are indeed a fan it makes Stan & Ollie all the more special. This film is a treasure. Go seek it out.




Stan & Ollie is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Sony Picture Classics. The Blu-ray extras include three vignettes: Making of Stan & Ollie (4 min.), Playful Prosthetics (3 min.) and Dancing Duo (3.5 min), a Q&A with Cast & Crew (30 min.), deleted and extended scenes, theatrical trailer and other Sony related trailers.


Please visit my MovieZyng Store for other Sony Picture Classic releases and a wide variety of classic film related DVDs and Blu-rays.


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