Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Stan and Ollie, Faithfully Yours

You can ignore those man-babies on Facebook. You know the kind... purists at heart who watch a movie solely to seek out what they feel is wrong with the picture, based on what they merit from the movie trailer on YouTube and IMDB. Those supposed stalwarts who brag about having seen Laurel and Hardy on the big screen when they grew up, and brag about seeing every Laurel and Hardy movie and film short multiple times, but threaten not to go to the movie theater and pay for a ticket to see a movie about Laurel and Hardy? Well, I ignored those who rant on social media and Faithfully Yours attended a preview showing a few days ago and you can take my word for it: Stan and Ollie is a loving tribute to the comedians who came to the realization, during the early fifties, that their career was coming to an end. 

Steve Coogan (left) and John C. Reilly (right) as Laurel and Hardy.

Following a dismal stint at 20th Century Fox (after leaving a successful career at Hal Roach Studios), Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy agreed to perform on stage in England, a tour that would ultimately take a toll on Hardy's declining health. Even standing by the ticket booth they hear a woman asking who will be playing Stan and Ollie on stage, the hotel clerk remarking "Honestly, I thought you two were dead," and dismal box office receipts that barely warrants playing in larger houses. Along the way their friendship is pushed to the limit as the men relieve their grievances for what each blamed the other as the cause and effect of their downward spiral. In the end, friendship grows stronger and Hardy agrees to go out with a bang... like any true comedian.

For John C. Reilly, who co-stars with Will Ferrell in those stupid comedies that are routinely terrible when viewed at home but somewhat funny in a theater filled with laughter, no greater compliment can be paid to a comedian than the opportunity to play the role of a comedy legend. Reilly does not ham up the performance, neither does he buffoon his way across the silver screen. Steve Coogan does a great job as Stan Laurel but it is Reilly who will certainly win an Oscar nomination for Best Actor come February. Regrettably, it remains doubtful that Reilly will win the Best Actor award as a result of the recent policy to diversify the judges at the Motion Picture Academy, many of whom are too young to know who Oliver Hardy is and not comprehend the character he played.

Earlier this year I attended the International Sons of the Desert convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, where aged fanboys addressed concern why young people were not devout followers of Laurel and Hardy. As a youngster myself, I could theorize a few answers to that puzzle but allow me, instead, to provide the following footnote: Everyone in the theater last week at the screening of Stan and Ollie was older than myself and almost all of them probably had an AARP card in their wallet. Before the film there was a brief introduction and the speaker asked if anyone in the theater was a member of the Sons of the Desert (the official Laurel & Hardy fan club). 

Not one person rose their hand.

Stan and Ollie will play in limited theaters as it qualifies as an "art house picture" so many reading this may have to wait until this loving tribute gets released on DVD in mid-late 2019. But any Doubting Thomas who wants to pick this picture apart by the seams (even before going to the theaters to watch the film) and question whether Laurel would have really said such harsh words to Hardy, or whether Hal Roach really had a beef with Laurel about finances would be wise to pause for a moment and remember this: In this day and age, we should be thankful that they even made a movie about Laurel and Hardy.