Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) are at the top of their careers. Fêted the world over for their film comedies, they are two constant stars in the Hollywood firmament of 1937. However there is a cloud hanging over their future. Signed to producer tyrannical Hal Roach (Danny Huston) neither see much of the money their films make. Added to this, Stan is under pressure to resign to Roach as Oliver already has and to refuse would risk splitting the duo up. It’s a pivotal moment.
Years later, soaked in the northern English rain, Laurel and Hardy’s future isn’t as starstruck. Their glory days seemingly behind them, their comeback trail looks unappetising as a tour of UK theatre dates stretches out ahead of them. Will the boys ever make it back to the top of the Hollywood pile?
… a lovingly crafted jewel that sits with the best of them.
Building upon BBC Films’s rich back catalogue of dramatic biographies of former stars of screen and stage, ‘Stan & Ollie’ is a lovingly crafted jewel that sits with the best of them. Aching with period detail and seamless production design, this is a riches to rags (and beyond) tale that will sweep you up with its attentive direction.
Cast in the roles Stan and Ollie, Steeve Coogan and John C. Reilly are inspired choices to play the “sons of the desert”. Coogan with his acknowledged comedic timing, seamlessly alters his voice between Stan “off stage” and Stan “on-stage” as Reilly apes Ollie’s body language to make this film homage complete. And if two gifted actors weren’t enough, Shirley Henderson as stay-at-home wife Lucille Hardy and Nina Arianda as as bristly starlet Ida Kitaeva Laurel, nearly steal the film’s third act with a double act to rival the men.
So, whilst it isn’t the most lavish production, ‘Stan & Ollie’s’ attention to detail is a genuine wonder to marvel at. Perfectly pitched between entertainment and history, comedy and drama, this is a historical biopic that will charm both newcomers and fans alike. As Ollie himself once said, when it comes to seeing this film: “Je ne regrette rien. And you shouldn’t regret rien, either.”