Baird gives both of these actors (each a master of improvisation) the necessary space to play off each other. But aside from the opening long take that spans many different film sets on a Hollywood back lot, there’s little stylistic invention or narrative aspiration elsewhere in the film.
This glimpse of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy’s final days as a double act is the most bittersweet of comedies, underplayed at every turn, but then, like the boys themselves, unexpectedly light on its feet.
Baird directs with a refreshing lack of self-indulgence, yet it's far from pedestrian: Coogan and Reilly are formidable, each knowing exactly when to carefully dial up into the persona, and when to dial down into the person. The effect is often astonishing: the recreated routines - which could have gone oh so wrong - are remarkable. A sweet, gentle coda to a sweet, gentle legacy.
I'm sure many will lament the simple story structure and downplayed conflicts, but Laurel and Hardy were simple fellas, so it's only fitting "Stan & Ollie" is what it is: a tender, quietly funny, and ultimately moving little ditty that boasts some quality comic performances. Coogan and Reilly fit their roles like a glove, and Henderson and Arianda do great work too. Commence to dancin', commence to prancin'.
Beyond the fact that this is conventional cinema in terms of film style, and thus quite forgettable in its own terms, Baird is to be praised for the integrity with which he treats the duo and for the fact that he opts for a single episode of its work outside the US, rather than attempting an epic biography. Reilly and Coogan are to be congratulated for the skill, hard work and ethos they put on the wonderful gags.
One of the loveliest love letters to real life entertainers out there. It's not a big movie nor a great one, but its simple story mirrors its simple pleasures, melodrama-free. All of the principal cast just kills it without turning it into a larger than life story (just the opposite). A very comfy watch.
Maybe my expectations were low after a banner year for awful biopics, but
this is great, treating its subjects with deep respect and kindness. It's just a sweet, fun film with Coogan and Reilly doing great, Oscar worthy work. It succeed by embracing the bittersweet, becoming moving not melodramatic. In it's own way, it has as much to say about Hollywood and the star system as Sunset Blvd. An underrated charming gem.
Friends who support each other in comedy learn each others' emotional cues, a call and response of two intertwined souls. This is a paint-by-numbers movie but who cares when the picture comes out so sweet?
The Oscars are a fucking joke, we all know that - just the fact that they gave Rami Malek an Oscar for THE single most overrated performance in the history of the Oscars and yet they completely ignored John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan's pitch-perfect performances, is proof enough. Nina Arianda was brilliant as well.