I must be honest — I had no idea that Stan & Ollie was even coming out. My first exposure was seeing a trailer for it before If Beale Street Could Talk. It immediately interested me because of the perfect chemistry John C Reilly (Step Brothers) and Steve Coogan (Tropic Thunder) displayed in just that short trailer. After seeing the full feature film, I’m happy to say that Stan & Ollie is my favorite movie so far in 2019.
Stan & Ollie follows the careers of comedians Stan Laurel (Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (Reilly), exploring not only the complexities of the relationship they have with each other but also the relationships they have with their business partners and love interests. The script, penned by Jeff Pope (99 Homes), deserves an Oscar nomination. The story is driven by character moments, and almost every character from this movie is memorable. Everybody had something significant to offer, and I believe that is due in large part to the excellent dialogue.
Reilly and Coogan are exceptional in their roles. By the end of the movie, I was choked up, because we’re taken on this journey with two guys who are trying to achieve their creative dreams. And it is not easy for them. They struggle through so much adversity, and it feels very easy to relate to. As a musician, I was able to connect with what they had to go through, which made the story of Laurel and Hardy that much more powerful.
The supporting cast is also very strong; stand-outs for me were Shirley Henderson (Lucille Hardy), Nina Arianda (Ida Kitaeva Laurel) and Rufus Jones (Bernard Delfont). These were the extra layer that enhanced the story. They added significant depth by demonstrating how Laurel and Hardy handled their relationships outside of the one they had with each other.
Director Jon S. Baird (Filth) executed his vision for this movie impeccably. Baird brought out some tremendous performances all around and helped tell a concise and emotional story. After this film, I believe we will be seeing a lot more of Baird in the director’s chair.
Stan & Ollie is visually pretty but nothing to write home about. Shot by Laurie Rose (Overlord), it shows a lot of different shots of London and other parts of the world, but it isn’t anything new. The coolest thing visually is a shot of silhouettes dancing. It’s one of those outside-the-box moments where the filmmakers found something very effective to do to change up a dancing act we had seen previously in the movie.
Musically the film is about on par with its’ visuals; the score is solid but nothing that you’re really going to remember. The score is composed by Rolfe Kent (Thank You for Smoking) and utilizes the typical string arrangements that you can hear time and time again in dramatic movies. While it is a beautiful score and enhances the movie, there’s no single theme I could hum after leaving the theater.
For the story and performances, though, Stan & Ollie is an absolute must-see for everybody. I was floored by how much it impacted me personally and how much I was able to relate to. Everybody behind and in front of the camera really brings their A-game, and it shows big time. The movie only runs a little bit over 90 minutes, but it feels like there is so much to digest. I left the theater almost in tears due to how invested I felt in Laurel and Hardy’s journey. Run out and see this movie immediately; this is one of the greats of 2019.