Esther McCarthy reviews Stand & Ollie and The Upside
Stan & Ollie (PG) ****
They may have been a double act where one doesn’t go without the other, but Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, we find, were two very different people, with a friendship forged on professional and commercial demands. Steve Coogan and John C Reilly are excellent as the title comic legends.
Nina Arianda and Shirley Henderson, too, are terrific as Ida Laurel and Lucille Hardy, two colourful wives so feisty that at one point, a promoter jokes that we’re getting two double acts for the price of one.
Like all the best bio-pics, Stan & Ollie doesn’t try to cram in the highs and lows of a standard life story, focusing instead on one angle - in this case, the end of their careers.
In the early 1950s, the duo went on a theatre tour of the UK and Ireland (they performed their very last shows together here). Their golden era days as the kings of Hollywood comedy had long since passed, and some of the early dates were in front of half filled halls, an indication of their waning fame.
Jon S Baird’s gently affectionate yet substantial film portrays them as two men at a crossroads, both professionally and with each other, and centres much of the drama around their relationship, putting real flesh on their separate identities.
One of the film’s great joys is how it incorporates some of their sketches into the film’s storyline - a scene involving a large luggage case and some very steep stairs is a particular delight.
The Upside (PG) ***
It was probably inevitable that French smash hit Les Untouchables - itself based on a true story - would eventually be remade into a Hollywood film. While Hart and Cranston do their best to crank up the warmth, and have a good onscreen bromance, the film struggles to build on its unconvincing premise.
Hart is Dell, a sharp-talking ex-con in danger of losing access to his son and alienating his ex-girlfriend. Just released from prison, with no interest in finding a job but keen to get welfare off his back, he applies for a number of positions - including, accidentally, a careworker for a wealthy quadriplegic. He is Phil (Cranston), who has tired of the well-intended staff and looking for someone with a bit more spark. Cranston keeps it all watchable.