Film Review: Stan & Ollie

Jon S. Baird’s Stan & Ollie is a lovingly-crafted portrait of the comedy duo. The strong performances certainly add to this.

It is 1953, and comedy double act Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are about to embark on a tour of Britain. The duo aim to reignite their career with the tour, which they are hoping will lead to a new film…

Directed by Jon S. Baird with a screenplay by Jeff Pope, Stan & Ollie focuses on the double act later in their career. This is a good choice, for there is more meat with their career in decline. The film is really about fading lights chasing a second chance, than stars on the rise. The story begins with the pair embarking on their tour in the UK. This set up works well; it is sad to see duo perform half-empty shows at the beginning of the tour, and illustrates that they are far from Hollywood.

As expected, Stan & Ollie concentrates on the relationship between the duo. Everyone know how well they work together on screen, so the film explores their real-life relationship. Baird delves into the gamut of emotions during this later period. The film incorporates some of their skits; the comedy here is gentle at best. There is more amusement to be found from the relationship of their wives, and their interactions with a flamboyant tour manager.

Performances from John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan are great. It is clear a lot of care has gone into getting the moves and mannerisms spot on. Nevertheless, Reilly’s prosthetics are very distracting; it may take a while to get used to them. Nina Arianda is a joy as Ida, and Rufus Jones is perfect as Bernard. The score is a little overblown at times. 

Stan & Ollie is a comforter of a movie, harking back to a bygone era. There is nothing remarkable about the film, but it tells the story engagingly enough, and performances impress.

Stan & Ollie closes the BFI London Film Festival on 21st October 2018.

Film Review: Filth

Filth

Filth may not be quite what viewers expect if they have seen the trailer. Nonetheless, the film offers something better.

Scheming policeman Bruce Robertson is in line for a promotion. Unscrupulous Bruce will stop at nothing to achieve his aim, undermining his rival colleagues at any opportunity. Tasked with leading the investigation on a murder case, Bruce starts to unravel…

Based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, Filth lives up to its title. There is a real seediness to the film, both thematically and visually. The lighting, sets and costumes create a murky world.

Jon S. Baird’s film excels in flipping genres. Filth begins as a comedy, albeit a black one, and shifts into a much darker drama. The beauty lies in the subtlety of this shift; it is carefully crafted so that the audience do not see it coming.

Bruce is a marvellously well drawn character. He is a captivating protagonist. At first it seems as if the film will concern his scheming but it descends into something darker.

The film is vulgar at times, but humour hits the mark. As a psychological study, Filth fluctuates from grim reality to subversive nightmare. The parallels its protagonist in terms of the freneticism and disjointedness.

James McAvoy delivers a powerful performance as Bruce. It is the strength of his portrayal which carries the film. McAvoy really is excellent in the role; he looks the part as well as conveying the character’s mental state effectively. He comes across as authentic when depicting all sides to the character. Eddie Marsan also delivers a star turn as Bruce’s straight-laced friend from the lodge.

The film’s soundtrack is retro but fitting. Paired with the on-screen action, upbeat songs are given a dark spin. Filth offers a tenebrous journey. Nonetheless, it is a most memorable journey at that.