Review: Stan & Ollie



Comedy and tragedy are a double act, and few movies in recent memory embody that notion quite as elegantly as Stan & Ollie, the sad story of a washed-up vaudeville duo—tortured genius Stan Laurel and easygoing workhorse Oliver Hardy—chewed up and spit out by the callous Hollywood studio system, struggling to reclaim a small piece of their former glory.


Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are perfectly cast as the iconic pair, playing them as (pardon the cliche) an old married couple, so intimately familiar with each other’s rhythms that they can’t help but perform… even when there’s no audience present. But unspoken resentments simmer just beneath the surface of their friendly banter, lending the narrative a subtle, insidious tension that only grows as they embark upon their ill-fated “comeback tour.” The film wisely avoids the pitfall that cripples so many other biopics by remaining laser-focused on the twilight of its subjects’ shared career, rather than diluting the drama by stretching it out over a longer period of time (there’s a grand total of two flashbacks depicting the height of their fame, and they’re relatively brief). The result is a cinematic experience that is heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, acknowledging the pain and sacrifice demanded by the fickle entertainment industry—while also celebrating the enduring legacy that its protagonists left behind.

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