Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. United Kingdom/Canada/USA, 2018. Entertainment One, BBC Films, Baby Cow Films, Fable Pictures, Laurel and Hardy Feature Productions, Sonesta Films. Screenplay by Jeff Pope. Cinematography by Laurie Rose. Produced by Faye Ward. Music by Rolfe Kent. Production Design by John Paul Kelly. Costume Design by Guy Speranza. Film Editing by Úna Ní Dhonghaíle, Billy Sneddon. Golden Globe Awards 2018.
In the 1930s, the comedy antics of Laurel & Hardy were box-office gold, their odd coupling a delight for audiences who loved their mismatched physicality and slapstick antics. By the early 1950s, however, their best days are behind them, Laurel trying desperately to get another film project off the ground while Hardy is succumbing to the burden of his massive flesh. The pair split up almost twenty years earlier after a contract dispute with Hal Roach sent them in opposite directions, and they have now decided to bury the hatchet and hit the road, taking on a tour of crummy theatres throughout the British Isles which they hope will revive interest in them and get their film project greenlit. The warmth of this very enjoyable biopic permeates the scenes of offstage interaction as much as it does the recreations of their onstage bits as Steve Coogan, as Laurel, and John C. Reilly in heavy prosthesis as Hardy try to focus on the job at hand and ignore the burgeoning sense of resentment thanks to past wrongs never having been dealt with properly. As Hardy’s health deteriorates, it becomes necessary to get things out in the open if they are going to complete this tour and get their dream project made. While this film won’t rewrite your idea of a celebrity biopic, it’s made with such sincerity and class that you might not be able to stop watching even if you’re not a fan of the real comedians it is portraying. Rounding out the cast beautifully are Shirley Henderson as Hardy’s deeply caring wife, her affection for him convincing and poignant, and a wonderfully terrifying Nina Arianda as Laurel’s hard-edged Russian bride who steals the show every time she says “No!” to the scum-sucking agent who tries to sit next to her at performances. The feel for the period is as lush as the emotions in this gentle and sweet tribute to creators, creativity and the need to perform.