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.

BFI London Film Festival 2018 Launch

Today saw the BFI London Film Festival 2018 launch. Now in its 62nd year, the festival is screening 225 feature films, including 21 world premieres. Here are some highlights from the festival programme…

Headline Galas

The Opening and Closing Gala films had already been announced. The BFI London Film Festival 2018 opens with Steve McQueen’s hotly anticipated Widows, starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Colin Farrell. McQueen co-wrote the  screenplay with Gillian Flynn. McQueen’s last film, 12 Years A Slave, screened at the 2013 London Film Festival to great acclaim. Stan & Ollie, which features John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan as the legendary comedy duo, closes the festival. Other headline galas include Luca Guadagnino’s hotly anticipated Suspiria, Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?. A particular highlight is Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest. The Favourite is about Queen Anne’s court, and stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weiss, and Emma Stone. 

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

There are several great looking films in the Strand Galas and Special Presentation programmes. They include Barry Jenkins’ follow up to Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, which is an adaption of James Baldwin’s novel. Others in this category include Lee Chang-dong’s thriller Burning, and Alfonso Caurón’s first film since Gravity, Roma, and Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Special Presentations include Michael Moore’s Donald Trump documentary Fahrenheit 11/9, Carol Morley’s noir thriller Out of Blue, and George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give. 

Official Competition

There are some big names in this year’s Official Competition. Films include David Lowery’s (A Ghost Story) The Old Man & The Gun starring Robert Redford, László Nemes’ (Son of Saul) Sunset, and Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead – Wheatley’s Free Fire closed the 2016 festival. Also competing is Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer, starring Nicole Kidman. Meanwhile the Documentary Competition features Putin’s Witness (Svideteli Putina’s film featuring footage of Putin from 1999-2000) and Julien Faraut’s John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection. First Feature Competition includes Isabella Eklöf’s Holiday and Paul Dano’s Wildlife. 

Strands

As in previous years, the eleven programme strands are back. Love features Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and the Sandra Hüller starring In The Aisles. Debate includes Oliver Assayas’ latest, Non-Fiction, starring Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet, and Catherine Corsini’s An Impossible Love. Laugh includes New Zealand comedy The Breaker Uppers, about two women running a relationship break-up service. Amongst the Dare programme is The Green Fog, which sees filmmakers Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson remake Vertigo using clips from other people’s films. Thrill includes Kim Nguyen’s The Hummingbird Project (starring Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård), while Cult features Nicolas Cage in Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. 

Jessica Hynes directorial debut The Fight is part of the Journey strand, and Create includes Joan Jett documentary Bad Reputation. Richard Squires’ Doozy, which recreates the career of Hanna-Barbera’s villain actor Paul Lynde is one of the Experimenta films being screened. The Family strand features Linda Hambäck’s animated detective tale Gordon & Paddy. Finally, there are some great films being screened as part of the Treasures strand. These include Billy Wilder’s classic Some Like It Hot and Mae West in My Little Chickadee.

The BFI London Film Festival 2018 runs from 10th-21st October. The full programme can be viewed here.