I am a huge fan of Laurel & Hardy, one of the greatest comedy duos in history, I found out there was going to a movie about them a year before its release after seeing promotional photos of the lead actors, they looked spot on, this is a movie I was super excited about, directed by Jon S. Baird (Filth). Basically in 1937, Stan Laurel (BAFTA nominated Steve Coogan) and Oliver "Ollie" Hardy aka "Babe" (Golden Globe nominated John C. Reilly) are making Way Out West. Stan refuses to renew his contract with Hal Roach (Danny Huston) as he believes the studio and Roach himself are failing to recognise the global fame of the pair. Ollie however remains tied to Roach on a different contract, the studio attempt to pair him with Harry Langdon (Richard Cant) in the film Zenobia. Though Laurel and Hardy would soon get back together, Ollie's absence during a meeting with Fox results in them not being signed on by the studio, leaving Stan feeling betrayed and bitter for years. Sixteen years later, in 1953, the duo embark on a gruelling music hall tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland while struggling to get a comedic film about Robin Hood made. However poor pre-publicity in Britain managed by producer Bernard Delfont (Rufus Jones) means the tour begins with almost empty back street theatres, Delfont seems more interested in up-and-coming star Norman Wisdom. Delfont therefore organises some public appearances for them, word of their visit to Britain spreads, resulting in them filling much larger prestigious venues. During the tour the pair, driven by Stan, continue to write and develop gags for the Robin Hood film. When the tour comes to London, Stan pays a visit to the film's producer and discovers there is insufficient funding and the project has been cancelled, but he cannot bring himself to tell Ollie, the script development continues. Ollie's wife Lucille (Shirley Henderson) and Stan's wife Ida Kitaeva (Nina Arianda) soon join them at London's Savoy Hotel before they are to perform at a sold-out two-week run at the nearby Lyceum Theatre. After the opening night, a party is held to honour them, tensions begin to show between the two wives, Delfont makes a remark to try and calm the situation. Then tensions arise between Stan and Ollie, Stan's feelings of Ollie's betrayal resurface after his wife brings up the "elephant movie", the two have a public argument about the contract fiasco that split them up. Stan claims they wouldn't have to do the tour if Ollie had been at the Fox meeting, and Ollie claims they weren't really friends, that they were paired up by Hal Roach and that Stan didn't love him as a friend, that he only loved Laurel and Hardy. Despite the strain to their friendship, they continue with public appearances, including judging a beauty contest in the seaside resort of Worthing, Ollie refuses to speak to Stan despite his attempt to apologise. Just when they are about to announce the winner, Ollie collapses from a heart attack and is forced to rest in bed. Two days later, Delfont is informed that is unlikely Ollie will be well enough to continue the tour, Delfont suggests getting a well-known English comic take Ollie's place. Stan visits Ollie, who tells him he intends to retire immediately, explaining that a doctor has warned him that he must not go onstage as the strain could be fatal, he and his wife will be leaving for America as soon as possible. Stan gets into bed with Ollie to warm him up, they reconcile that they did mean any of their comments at the party, the two share a moment of silence together. On the night of the next show Stan finds it impossible to work with another comedian that Delfont has set up for him as a substitute, because it isn't Ollie, and as such the performance is cancelled much to Delfont's dismay. Stan tells his wife that he truly does love Ollie as a friend and intends to return to America with him instead of continuing the tour but asks her not to tell Ollie he's leaving. Ollie in turn decides he can't spend the rest of his life idle in bed and leaves his hotel room just before his wife comes back, he surprises Stan with a knock at the door. The two finally recognise the real fondness that exists between them and what pleasure they get from each other, they silently forgive each other, Ollie smiles and tells Stan they have a show to do. Despite struggling during the night Ollie successfully performs on stage with Stan to a thunderous applause from the audience. As they sail to Ireland, Stan finally confesses that he life to Ollie about the future Robin Hood film that they have been working on, he thinks no-one wants to see a Laurel and Hardy movie anymore. Ollie confesses that he already knew from Stan's demeanour, Stan is confused and asks why they continued working on a script if he knew the truth, Ollie says that it's all they could do. Arriving in Ireland, the duo are welcomed by a large crowd of fans of all ages, and despite Ollie's poor health, they complete the tour, including their iconic "At the Ball, That's All" dance, to great acclaim from their fans. It says in the end credits that following the end of the tour, it was the last time Laurel and Hardy ever worked together; Ollie's health deteriorated and died in 1957, Stan was devastated and never worked again, he continued to write sketches for Laurel and Hardy, and died eight years later. Also starring Susy Kane as Cynthia Clark, John Henshaw as Nobby Cook, Keith MacPherson as James Finlayson, Joseph Balderrama as James Horne, Ashley Robinson as Gordon Douglas and Roger Ringrose as Doctor. From Coogan replicating Laurel's hair fiddling to blowing on his finger to elevate his bowler hat, to Reilly under amazing latex makeup imitating Hardy's exasperated grunt and tie twiddling, both actors are highly convincing as the famous comedy partners, both in their funny and sensitive moments, Coogan and Reilly are joined by an equally good supporting cast, including Henderson and Arianda as the wives. All the moments you would hope to see are covered, with recreations of their most memorable slapstick and skits, including the catchphrase "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into", a suitcase going down a flight of stairs like The Music Box, the broken leg material from County Hospital, and the dance and "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" from Way Out West. This is a celebration of the career and lives of the double act, and a well-executed insight into what became their swansong performances, but more than anything it is a true story of friendship, it is a delight to watch, a fabulous biographical comedy drama. It is nominated the BAFTAs for Outstanding British Film of the Year and Best Make Up/Hair. Steve Coogan was number 17, and Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were number 7 on The Comedians' Comedian. Very good!
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