Director Stephen Cookson gives us 80 minutes of confusion, laughter and peculiarity all rolled into one. Stanley, A Man of Variety stars Timothy Spall as Stanley, a middle-aged man locked up in a Victorian era style psychiatric facility who undergoes physical and mental seizures. As he comes into his fifteenth year of his isolation, due to his seizures, he has hallucinations of his heroes; George Formby, Frank Randall, Noel Coward and Max Miler (as well as ten others) just to name a few.
It’s a bizarre film and highly disorientating at times, but the concept is different and something not seen often on screen. Timothy Spall is simply excellent and the way he plays 14 completely different manifestations as well as being Stanley, is first-rate. The oddness of these characters is entertaining, they’re almost twisted and demonic like but each with a very good sense of humour.
To earn the privilege of watching his ‘priceless memorabilia’, he does daily chores by scrubbing the building clean. In return he receives the tokens needed to operate a small TV in his bedroom, but as each day passes he gets less and less tokens, in which Stanley grows more and more anxious until he finds the need to escape. At first you don’t have a clue what’s happening, but as the film goes on, the truth of his life unravels and the sad realisation of what’s real and what isn’t makes you feel sorry for Stanley.
Although humorous and clever at times, along with Timothy Spall’s superb acting – Stanley, A Man of Variety does have its drawbacks. It lacks stamina and a hearty plot. It isn’t thought provoking as much as it should be – considering its context, it’s pretty much pointless and unsatisfying. It could be a film to watch if you’re interested in the abnormal and perplexing, or if you’re just a really big fan of Timothy Spall.