Greetings my Movie Geeks!
Laurel and Hardy are the premier double act. They created what a double act was and their legacy can clearly be seen in later acts. In the comedy stylings of Morecambe and Wise, The Two Ronnie’s and Reeves and Mortimer. But what hasn’t been done is a biopic of their lives. Until now, here is Stan & Ollie.
Laurel & Hardy
Based on the book “Laurel & Hardy: The British Tours” it follows them at the end of their careers as they embark on a tour of the UK & Ireland music halls. Trying to earn money as well as getting a feature film financed, this could be the last outing for the duo.
The two stars, Steve Coogan and John C Reilly both excel as their characters Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy respectively. The make-up and costumes add to their transformation, but it’s the acting and mannerisms that steal the show. We see Laurel and Hardy’s routines from the feature film Way out West (1937) to routines from the tour (1953).
The story is somewhat lacking, basically telling of how they became reunited after a falling out for the tour. Added for dramatic effect, the film makes it look as though they weren’t together in the intervening 16 years. But they made several feature films up until a year before the music hall tours. This doesn’t affect the movie at all; if anything it enhances the closeness of the partnership.
It’s an interesting look into what happens when times move on and the biggest stars have to move on. We see them after their peak when they’re getting older and not in full health.
The cinematography is interesting, with a lot of shots using mirrored reflections of the duo and later on using their shadows and silhouettes during a routine. This works because their easily recognisable body shapes and trademark Bowler hats make them stand out. The focus of the film is squarely on the relationship between the two men.
This film is made with love for the old black and white films. It’s a love letter to the first and probably best comedy double act to ever grace the screen. The make-up on both Coogan and Reilly was impressive, giving Coogan a new chin and protruding ears made him capture the look of Laurel. Reilly had several changes throughout the film, with a fat suit that was said to be air conditioned and facial prosthetics to make him appear overweight. He seems to change the most, and where some fat suits appear light and not real, this one makes you feel that Reilly physically put the weight on for the role.
The opening scene appears to be a long shot following the duo as they are called on set. We get a great sense of who they are and what their characters are. We don’t fully see them for at least 5 minutes, apart from glimpses in mirrors. They are at the top of their game and that’s shown when they are greeted by everyone on the lot. But it’s not until the Bowler hats and black jackets are put on that the audience are fully immersed into the characters.
Beat for Beat
The stand out for this scene is that they go into a dance routine that you don’t realise until the end credits were done beat for beat. As mentioned a lot of care and love has gone into making this film, a love for early film making, for comedy and for Laurel and Hardy.
I would urge all to watch this film as it’s funny, sad and heart-warming to see what they went through to try and prolong their careers. It goes into detail about how close they actually were, with Laurel refusing to work with anybody else when Hardy couldn’t perform. It’s a moving film that will give you tear-inducing moments.
Stan & Ollie is in cinemas now.
Dir: Jon S. Baird
Starring: Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston