They don’t make them like this anymore. It seems like every movie for the last decade or so has become some sort of gigantic summer blockbuster based on a comic character. As movies have gotten bigger budgets, and intertwined itself with more and more CGI, it’s really refreshing to see a period piece that doesn’t require millions of dollars in effects and costuming. I don’t need a sprawling epic or a dark and gritty reboot. Sometimes simple is simply more genuine. And that’s exactly what Stan & Ollie is.
Taking place primarily in 1953, the comedic duo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are trying to revive their careers and also mend some bonds of friendship. Their act has become less relevant and they are looked down upon more and more as has-beens. Even though the film starts off sixteen years earlier, in 1937, it immediately sets the tone for what type of movie this is. Less of a biography and more of a character piece. Less Shadowlands and more My Dinner with Andre. No big sets or large twists or turn. The most spectacular shot in the whole movie is the first shot, which becomes a 5 minute long walk and talk sequence.
John C. Riley does an amazing job of slipping into the role of Hardy, akin to someone like Garry Oldman, where you forget you are watching an actor portray someone else. Sure the fat suit and makeup are a tad distracting at first, but after about 5 minutes, you don’t even care. The cadence of speech of both Riley and Steve Coogan show the little nuances to Laurel and Hardy’s speech patterns, and the care they took to portray these legends of comedy correctly.
The movie is a beautiful tale of friendship, as you can see how a single moment, a completely understandable choice in a career can change things forever. You really feel the incredible chemistry between the two and the movie allows you to see both sides of the conflict.
It also takes great care to show you, how almost a hundred years later, these comedy routines, as simple as they can be by today’s standards, will still get genuine gut laughs from you. It goes to show how much of this era is missed in modern media. Not every joke has to be some raunchy disgusting anecdote. Leaving room for simplistic slapstick is somehow even more enjoyable. Each routine either performed by the duo or on their own shows how much joy they brought with them wherever they went. Even the smallest thing like doing a bit for some press shows how these two friends operated on a singular level when partnered up.
Nothing more needs to be said, and as much as I’d like to talk more and more about the movie, it really is something that just needs to be watched. This movie does one of those things, that only a good movie can. After the credits, you sit silently, and ponder it just a bit. It leaves a lasting impression, you want more, you want to go back and experience it again, but it’s all over and you are left just a bit of bittersweet melancholy.