Stan & Ollie (2019)

I recommend you see this movie, but with one caveat. It’s about one of the most famous comedy duos of told time, so you expect this to be highly comedic, right? That’s the wrong approach to this, go in expecting a drama and you’ll be fine. It took a while for me to adjust to that mindset, so for about half the film I was disappointed, then there was a scene in a hotel lobby of the two of them having an argument, a really heavy one. Not in terms of shouting and screaming, but in terms of the pure emotion on display. At that point a switch in my head was turned on and I got it. From that point on I enjoyed it a lot more. I get the feeling they used artistic license with history at some moments, but not too many. It seemed relatively honest. By which I mean it made them seem like dicks at times, it admitted they were not perfect individuals or ones who had just suffered misfortunes, but were in fact sometimes the cause of their own misfortunes. I like when biopics do that (for a great example of this, watch Get On Up, the film about James Brown which seems to veer from loving warm tales to a full-on character assassination depending what scene you’re watching).

I will admit to having never scene any Laurel And Hardy, but now I want to. I want to see how accurate their depictions are of them. I’ve heard people say they were spot on imitations, but I can’t really comment on that, all I can comment on really is the story, which was great. It was almost like a love story. Well, it is a relationship story, essentially. We see them at their best, and at their worst. When their wives join them it completely changes the interplay between them, for the better. The wives’ interactions with each other are delightful, in a cringey way. The pair throw pointed barbs at each other all the time, some subtle, some not, and they provide some of the best laughs of the film. It also provides the backdrop of one of the biggest heartwarming moments near the end. A moment which will make you think “oh no, don’t do that” but then be very glad they did.

The big downside is the pacing is a bit slow at times. And we’re not really shown enough background about them. But that is minor, this isn’t a film about Laurel and Hardy, this is a film about a very specific time period in their life. And that it does very well, you really get a feeling for how far they’ve fallen.

This film is very good, but it lacked that something that made it great. If it’s the best film I see all year I won’t consider this a good year, but if it’s the worst film I see all year then 2019 is going to be great.

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Ideal Home (2018)

I knew nothing about this film. Never saw it marketed, which considering how marketable a name Paul Rudd is right now (Particularly because of Ant-Man) I found that puzzling. Almost like this film was one that was shuffled out embarrassingly by the studios. Add to the fact it’s a story about a gay couple, which is a story cinema still has issues with telling in some of the more oppressive and backward parts of the world (Iran, Saudi Arabia, America. Yeah I said it, come fight me bro), left me with a big cause for concern. I was particularly worried that this film would just be full of gay stereotypes, that the leads would be doing the kind of performance that is best left in the awful and horribly dark days of the 90’s. There are moments where Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd to go a bit too stereotypical, but those moments are fleeting, other than that the characters are pretty much just like every other character the two of them play. They actually have surprisingly good chemistry, to the point where I really want to see Steve Coogan in a Marvel film (him as a villain in the next Ant-Man movie would be incredible to see).

That’s not the only way this film subverts expectations. There’s not that much homophobia in it. It’s a film where a gay couple look after a troubled youth. It would be expected for there to be a moment where another character says “those guys are dirty fags” and the kid gets annoyed and punches them in defence of his new dads. The closest you get to that is another kid saying to him “you have two dads?” “I guess so”. There’s a moment where Steve Coogan visits his son in prison (the kid they’re looking after is his Grandson from his straight phase). It’s shown they have an incredibly strained relationship, and the son has a history of awful behaviour (drugs, stealing from prostitutes etc) and has a foul mouth. So when Coogan’s character says “Paul is my male companion, and has been for 10 years. Do you have a problem with that?”, you expect tension. But nope, the son just says “no” and that’s it. It’s beautiful how nothing that moment is.

This isn’t really a film about sexuality, it’s a film about parenting. And a pretty damn sweet one. I knew I was hooked when the kid was handed back to his dad, and the dad was drink driving and nearly falling asleep with the kid in the car. When that part happened I messaged someone “this film better not go where I think it’s going”. I was genuinely invested in these characters.

So I would recommend seeing this. Maybe don’t buy it on day of release, but if you get a chance to watch it, take it. You won’t regret it. I mean, it gave us this quote:

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