"I'm over-critical and not easily satisfied. But I apologise a lot. I have to, because I make psychological mistakes on the set in being pissed off about things that are basically nonsense - "-Paul Verhoeven
Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly), the world's favourite comedy duo set off on a variety hall tour of Britain in 1953. Diminished by age and their years as Hollywood comedy kings behind them, the pair struggle with disappointing attendances and a manipulating agent (Rufus Jones). Their relationship becomes strained and as Ollie's health fails when their performances and partnership are threatened.
Review by Louise Keller: Beautifully realized and profoundly moving, Stan and Ollie offers a peek into window the unique relationship between Laurel and Hardy, the two comedic greats, whose 23 year partnership successfully straddles both the silent and talking era. The relationship is explored in depth - both on and off the stage. Director Jon S. Baird has captured the nuances of the relationship - from their professional comedic interactions to the prickly personality differences and deep-seated grudges. Understanding the context and personalities provides a whole new insight. Casting is perfect: Coogan and Reilly are wonderful. It's warm, funny and poignant. Take a tissue - you may need it!
It is 1937 when we first meet Stan (Coogan) and Ollie (Reilly), who are debating how to maximise on their popularity and manage their work opportunities. Ollie is the soft hearted charmer who wants people to like him and treats his women like porcelain dolls. Stan is the abrupt, tough nosed business man who does not care what people think.
The first time we see them on stage together, the skit in question involves a leg in a cast, two hard boiled eggs and some nuts. We see this skit twice more - in very different circumstances later in the film. There is a good reason for it. I love the way Baird reveals cinematic magic as Stan and Ollie shoot a film in the studio. The camera captures the men from behind as they begin their dance steps. Then as the camera faces them, we get a new perspective seeing the black and white western backdrop behind them. The magic is complete when we see the finished black and white film - before a laughing, appreciative audience.
We are on the road with them as Stan and Ollie travel up and down Britain performing shows to half empty auditoriums, frustration with their smirking agent (Rufus Jones, excellent) apparent. Things really step up when their wives join them in London. You could not find two more different personalities, beautifully portrayed by Shirley Henderson (as Ollie's gentle, caring wife) and Nina Arianda (as Stan's sharp-tongued East European wife). The dialogue zings.
The emotional climax is an edge of seat moment, when Stan and Ollie exchange harsh words at the glitzy Savoy Hotel, shooting fatal verbal arrows at each other - aimed for the heart.
Ultimately, the film is a love affair - between two talented men who need and love each other, despite and because of their differences. Don't miss it!