Stan & Ollie,
directed by Jon S. Baird
(PG, 1 hour, 38 minutes)
Comic duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy successfully negotiated the movies' transition from silents to talkies. Over a 30-year span ending in 1951, they made 106 films together. Yet by the early 1950s, they were struggling.
Each of them had led untidy personal lives -- Hardy was a gambler, while Laurel had three ex-wives -- and they needed revenue streams.
Jon S. Baird's affectionate and fact-based Stan & Ollie focuses on a final tour of the United Kingdom that began in 1953 with them playing to half-empty houses in the second-best theaters in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham while waiting for the particulars of a new movie to come together.
Although their interests diverge, the friendship between Stan (Steve Coogan) and Ollie (John C. Reilly) is genuine and long-lasting; it's not the arguments that drive this film, but the deep partnership between two very different sort of men.
Coogan and Reilly capture the nuances of the team's timing. Reilly, charged with replicating Babe's Hippo-in-a-tutu grace, has the showier role, but Coogan, known for his acerbic characters, conveys intelligence and steel while retaining a gooey center -- his love for his partner is real.
Stan & Ollie is made to comfort and assure. It captures in amber a lost world when a half-filled house was not a disaster, only an occasion for a more intimate kind of exchange between performer and audience, a world repairing itself after a suicidal war, before rock 'n' roll, when television was still a novelty.
It offers a glimpse of vaudevillian dinosaurs as the pop asteroid approaches. With Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston.
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MovieStyle on 03/29/2019
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