Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:23 pm 
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Swan song

The makeup and costumes, period mise-en-scene and impersonations are admirable, and the two leads do their level best to disappear into their parts. But this stage tour of England and Ireland when the pair were in their early sixties and the overweight Babe (Oliver Hardy) had a failing heart seems most of the way like a very bad idea. It's touching at the end, this movie about the Thirties and Forties movie comedy team of Laurel and Hardy (ably played by Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly, respectively) trying to go on performing past their prime and box office viability, in 1953. But otherwise it just seems a huge error of judgment. Do we want to see this downbeat situation played out? The action for the most part is merely dreary, with old hostilities between the two periodically dredged up to create conflict.

Of course sad clowns could make a great movie. Look at La Strada. But that had Giulietta Messina, and the director was Fellini. This loving but misguided movie wound up not pulling me out of the Winter Doldrums but making them worse - just as Can You Ever Forgive Me? did. Those who have described a "gentle," "sweet," "genial" picture featuring some of both actors' best work ever, saw a movie I failed to perceive. (Good work, maybe, but in a lost cause.) Maybe you will see it.

Or maybe - your enjoyment is not guaranteed because times and tastes have greatly changed - what you should watch instead of Stan and Ollie are some of the real Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy films - which I remember enjoying when I was very young at Saturday morning children's time at the movie house with my grandmother. Later I came to prefer the meaner and edgier W.C. Fields, whose comedy is faster paced. Stan and Ollie's limited US release was 28 Dec. 2018; it releases wide today, 18 January 2019. (Watched on an online preview screener.)

Stan & Ollie, 97 mins., debuted Oct. 2018 at BFI London Film Festival; also AFI and Gothenburg. Metascore 75.


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