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Stan & Ollie (dir. Baird)

Image: John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan as Hardy and Laurel respectively. © [Source IMDB]

★★★★☆

The worlds most famous comedy duo, Laurel and Hardy are at the tail end of their careers. A desperate bid to secure a movie deal by touring to empty theatres in post-war Britain. The duo and the audience find more tragedy than expected but as they say, the show must go on.

Director: Jon S. Baird. Starring: John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan [PG]

The comedy duo of Laurel and Hardy played with a warm presence underlined with a slight bitterness that brought the comedy to the forefront and made the pair sensational. Much the same can be said here for this film as well as for Coogan and Reilly.

Coogan and Reilly absolutely nailing their parts respectively, capturing the little nuances of each person but what I feel is more remarkable is that they have managed to succeed in conjuring the same chemistry that the famous duo had on-screen. Even more so they manage to weave that same chemistry into believable and genuine scenes that take place off the stage between Stan and Ollie. Reilly’s makeup and panting breaths are no doubt magnificent but I feel it is Coogan who really shines in his mirroring of Laurel. Mainly due to the under the surface tension that starts off simmering before coming to boil in the middle act. And it is Coogan who subtly tells the story of a man who feels that he does all the work, who is like the older brother looking after the lost sheep and yet the one who undeniably cannot be without his counterpart.

It’s that arc that is also told through the main plot and while Reilly is like the attention grab. Coogan is the one who shows the finesse of character that the film divulges into. That being said, part of why this film doesn’t quite grip with intensity is that it fails to do anything exciting. The structure of the plot, the themes, the editing and certainly the cinematography is rather generic and bland. It doesn’t need to break any ground but something with a little more passion would complement the tale being told to great success. Even more so it is clear to see that much of the winning charm this film is riding on is in its reproduction of classic scenes between the iconic duo. But while it is certainly great to see them capture scenes so perfectly, it leaves an emptiness to these moments as it doesn’t build on them or add any touch of insight. Feeling more like ticking a box of things that you have to do before the film could really start.

Despite these comments from myself. I still find Stan and Ollie to be a true celebration of the comedic duo, much of the real insightful comments coming from the characters themselves every now and then and while it is not much it certainly adds to the pair. It’s a triumph of tribute, filled with heart, charisma, talent and warmth. A touching tale of two friends who rise above the word and much how they couldn’t be without each other. I couldn’t imagine a more fitting tribute.

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