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Film Review: Stan and Ollie (2019)

Stan and Ollie (2019) is a bio-pic based on the lives of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, a well-loved comedy duo from the 1920s through to the 1950s. Directed by Jon S. Baird (Filth), this film stars John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan in the title roles. This film focuses on the career of Stan and Ollie at a time where they are getting older, and many people already thought that they had retired. We get to see their career in their older life, and how they still touched many people in their final years.

Stan and Ollie (2019) – source: Entertainment One
Laurel and Hardy are household names, even to this day. Most people will know who they are and the impact they had in Hollywood and cinema back in the Classical Hollywood era. Watching back on their films, we see the charisma and charm that they had, and that infectious partnership was unlike any seen since. However, the main reason why I was intrigued in particular about this film was down to the director. This is more personal to me, but Jon S. Baird was born and raised near the area where I was also born and raised, and he also went to the same University that I am currently studying at. I love seeing local talent succeed and make great films, as it gives me hope that I too can have a career in the film industry.
This film has a particular feel to it that perfectly matches the essence of Laurel and Hardy. This is a charming film that focuses on the characters and kept the editing and story very simple. This worked well for Stan and Ollie, as they had great source material to base their story on. I very much enjoyed the story that they told, and it was a great choice for them to focus on their later careers. It gave a story of hope and love, and was a different twist on a bio-pic that focuses on the end of a career, rather than the peak or start.
What helps this film sell this story is Coogan and Reilly in their respected roles. They capture the charm of Laurel and Hardy so well, that you believe they are them back in the 1950s. They both gave fantastic performances throughout and it was great to see them recreate some of Laurel and Hardy’s best moments and gags. I particularly liked the stage performances, as they captured the joy of their performances and the love for live performances and cinema, and I appreciate any film that does this.
Stan and Ollie (2019) – source: Entertainment One
This film isn’t just told in a linear set-up, but also relies on flashbacks to tell the full story. Normally this would annoy me, but I actually liked the use of them here. They work here simply because they are presented clearly. The gap was so different that we know when a flashback is happening, and they are vital to understanding the full story. I also loved the opening sequence of this film, as it perfectly set up the tone for the movie.
What this movie unfortunately will suffer for is just being a cookie cutter film. This is a very standard film in terms of structure and editing. This is not a movie that will unfortunately catch many people’s attention or make any “best of” list. However, it doesn’t need to. I like how simplistic the film is, and it is the sort of movie that honours Laurel and Hardy as people.
Stan and Ollie (2019) – source: Entertainment One
This is a movie that is short and sweet, and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. The performances and direction are great and whilst there is nothing quite special or memorable about this film, it should be watched. This is a great tribute to Laurel and Hardy and if you are a fan of them and their legacy, this is a perfect film for you.

Have you seen Stan and Ollie yet? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below and let’s have a discussion.

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