11th Jan2019

‘Stan & Ollie’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Nina Arianda, Shirley Henderson, Stephanie Hyam, Danny Huston, Richard Cant, Susy Kane, Rufus Jones | Written by Jeff Pope | Directed by Jon S. Baird


Director Jon S. Baird’s anticipated passion project on iconic due Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, played by John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan, respectively is a delightful effulgent nuanced picture. Highlighting the iconic duo’s last rodeo of substantial relevancy in their comedy hall tour around Great Britain offers a detailed and eye-opening account of the lives and personalities on the somewhat sadly faded legacy of two comedic giants. The chaotic, yet ironically straight shaped routine with its abundance of cynosure screen presence is felt within a matter of seconds within the opening sequence with distinctive mannerisms and traits.

Cinematographer Laurie Rose with editors Úna Ní Dhonghaíle and Billy Sneddon honour and utilise the world in a submerging manner. The opening long tracking shot in particular of Laurel and Hardy walking from their dressing rooms to the studio lot, discussing plain ordinary life, interacting with production members with grace and humour is interjected with conversations on a more personal note with debts in multiple wives and the constant overarching thread and deluge of the need for excess money. A terrific metaphor for their whirlwind careers and personalised histrionic ideals. The energy and lifeblood of the duo and their meteoric rise of scope are fed throughout the daily life interactions, From a turbulent hectic beginning to a humble and luminous end.

The production design is fabulous and while the scope of budget and scale is perhaps felt on occasion it never falls flat at any one point throughout the picture. Never becoming consequential to the overall plot or final product. Jon S. Baird cleverly and purposely confines his picture and advertently his characters into a terrific closed off outline resulting in a vibrant querulous boiling pot of munificent emotional value, courtesy of writer Jeff Pope. Stan and Ollie also entails a terrific use of a mise-en-scene from production designer John Paul Kelly and set decorator Claudia Parker. Wonderfully crafted in small foreboding as the inevitable climax for the iconic due closes in, so does the space on the screen itself as corridors and hallways become tighter.

Reilly and Coogan are spectacular as the titular characters. Coogan, in particular, holds a tremendous amount of emotional as well as physiological weight playing the ringmaster of sorts. The docile nature and trepid tendencies of outspoken emotion from both characters and a sort of blind ignorance to each other’s troubles cater to a devastatingly brutal sequence of horrible insults thrown back and forth. It’s this unearthed animosity that sparks a fire of passion and brotherly love, long gone untouched or spoken on the dynamic bond of comedy spectacle and the equality each brings to proceedings. However, the stand out here is the parallel animosity and rival bitterness from wives Ida Kitaeva Laurel and Lucille Hardy, played by Nina Arianda and Shirley Henderson, respectively. The rivalry and entangled hostility stemming from their overprotective nature and defensiveness over their husbands is a fabulous rendition of hilarious narcissist tension that acts like a tonic the inevitable decline of their counterparts careers and friendship.

Stan & Ollie is in UK cinemas now.


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