Stan & Ollie

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Stan & Ollie
"The performances by Steve Coogan (Stan) and John C Reilly (Ollie) are above and beyond the call of duty. They give the film heart." | Photo: Entertainment One

Closing the door after the horse has died makes a nonsense of expectation. Comedians have their day and then they have their evening, which is a celebration of the past when slapstick was king and they wore the crown, but now there is nothing to hang onto but memories and bad health and dodgy relationships and a theatre tour to keep the fans ticking over, or at least ticking.

Stan & Ollie is the Laurel & Hardy story in decline. The films have dried (almost). Stan continues to write for the next one. Ollie made a movie with someone else and Stan cannot forget or forgive. The duo has become yesterday’s Uno et Uno. They are united by sadness and loss.

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The performances by Steve Coogan (Stan) and John C Reilly (Ollie) are above and beyond the call of duty. They give the film heart. They bring together the ragged strands of a professional pairing of one Englishman and one American during Hollywood’s post silent flowering. This, however. Is the after/after party when the wine tastes like pickle and the old jokes only work when accompanied by casual violence. They can walk in the street without being recognised. Is this the final act?

The wives (Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda) have no illusions and stay with the money. There is affection of a kind. Common sense is their survival mechanism. They see the future and they prepare.

The film struggles for harmony. Stan won’t let go. Ollie has already gone. At their best, Laurel & Hardy reinvented physical comedy after Chaplin had broken down the doors. Stan & Ollie assumes you understand because this is a film about the next phase when fame is a word meaning the light is fading in the stalls.

Reviewed on: 28 Dec 2018
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True story of the late years of the comedy double-act.

Festivals:

London 2018

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