Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Movie with Abe: Stan and Ollie

Left to right: John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy, Shirley Henderson as Lucille Hardy, Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel, Nina Arianda as Ida Laurel Photo by Nick Wall, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Stan and Ollie
Directed by Jon S. Baird
Released December 28, 2018

There are names throughout history that speak for themselves and need to only be referenced in part for nearly any audience to know immediately who they are. Often, such people come in pairs. Laurel and Hardy are definitely well-known all throughout the world, and their many public and screen appearances seem worthy of a cinematic tale of their own to tell their story. While they were always called by their last names, this film chooses to use their first names, representing a more intimate chance to get to know these two comedy greats towards the end of their illustrious careers entertaining people together.

Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) are legends in the industry, making crowds everywhere double over with laughter at their acts. Years after the height of their popularity, however, they find themselves on a tour through Ireland and England that hardly feels fitting for their universal appeal. Desperate to get funding for a Robin Hood parody film that Stan is writing, they play to barely-filled small venues in the hopes that the producer will come see their final performance in London, where their wives Ida (Nina Arianda) and Lucille (Shirley Henderson) will also arrive to show their respective brands of support.

Much of this film’s success hinges on the effectiveness of its actors imitating these famous performers. Coogan is known for his dry comedy, and this reviewer particularly appreciated his turn in “The Look of Love,” in which he played another larger-than-life personality, Paul Raymond. Here, he gets to play Stan, the straight man whose mind is always running, coming up with the next great idea to continue their greatest successes. Reilly, an Oscar nominee for his invisible husband in “Chicago” and a Golden Globe nominee for this film, is buried under extensive makeup as the extremely overweight Ollie, who follows the lead of his partner with considerably less ambition.

Coogan and Reilly prove to be strong choices to play these iconic figures, and they receive commendable support from Henderson, who portrays the shy, reserved Lucille, who worries constantly about her husband’s health, and Arianda, who steals her every scene with a formidable Russian accent and equally fierce personality to go with it. The film’s energy level mirrors the enthusiasm of its lead characters, which results in some lackluster mid-film scenes before a strong and optimistic rally as the two come to be nostalgic about everything they’ve done over their many years together.


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