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Read: Stan and Ollie is a delight

Television re-runs of Laurel and Hardy films were commonplace when I was a kid. I can’t say I was a huge fan, but their pratfalls provided a real world alternative to endless showings of Bugs Bunny and The Whacky Races.

In Stan & Ollie we get a glimpse of the men behind the legend, yes it’s a modern interpretation by  director John S. Baird, but it is a sympathetic and intimate look behind the curtain.  The film kicks off later in the duo’s career as an aggrieved Stan Laurel refuses to renew his contract with producer Hal Roach. His stance puts him at odds with Oliver Hardy who is unable to break his commitment to the studio. The two fall out and Hardy works on a film without Laurel. 

Sixteen years later the duo are reunited and undertaking an under-appreciated tour of the UK.  What follows is a fascinating exploration of their relationship to one  another and their bolshy ambitious wives. 

Steve Coogan is a bit of a surprise in this film since I’ve never seen him in a dramatic role, but as Stan Laurel, he gives a really nicely measured and emotional performance.  

John C. Reilly has always been a great actor and he portrays Hardy as a gentle shy man struggling with his identity. It is beautifully nuanced. 

Both actors made me believe I was actually watching the original stars, who off screen were very different to the characters they played for laughs.  

Likewise, Shirley Henderson (Lucille Hardy) and Nina Arianda (Ida Laurel) are excellent as the pushy yet loving wives of the two stars. Watching the rivalry between them is delightful. 

The film provides a great insight into the long passed era of Vaudeville. What perhaps surprised and delighted me was how incredibly funny Laurel and Hardy were. The gags and the slapstick are both simplistic and yet also accurate and hilarious in depicting human dynamics and the ways in which we annoy the hell out of each other. 

Stan & Ollie is a heartwarming biopic that brings these magical comedians to a new audience and shows the depth of friendship possible between two men. 

In cinemas 21st February 2019

Stan & Ollie 

97 Minutes

Directed by: John S. Baird

Starring: Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly

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