Stage Beauty (2004)
It's the 1660s, and Edward 'Ned' Kynaston is England's most celebrated leading lady. Women are forbidden to appear on stage and Ned profits, using his beauty and skill to make the great female roles his own. But King Charles II is tired of seeing the same old performers in the same old tragedies. Since no one will take him up on his suggestion to improve Othello with a couple of good jokes, he decides to liven the royal palate by allowing real women to tread the boards. In a slightly less progressive spirit, he rules that men may no longer play women's parts. This is good news for the monarch's mistress, the saucy, stage-struck Nell Gwyn. It is also good news for Maria, Kynaston's lovelorn young dresser who has been secretly performing at a seedy tavern in lavish costumes borrowed from her employer. It is very bad news for Ned, who plummets from his exalted position as one of London's most desirable females to become a virtual nobody, virtually overnight. Cast out of the spotlight, Ned seems headed for burlesque obscurity until Maria, now a rising star, takes it upon herself to make a man of him again. … More
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Critic Reviews for Stage Beauty
The attraction to Stage Beauty is that it is just as much a campy comedy as it is an elegant drama.
It's a Restoration romantic comedy that struggles with the romance and isn't nearly comic enough.
Has a weird, compelling energy, fueled by a deliciously dynamic cast, a cheerfully bawdy and odd story line and a refreshing, impossible romance.
Even if playwright Jeffrey Hatcher was a bit too tied up in his original play, there's no denying the wonderful wit at its center.
While Eyre's direction is somewhat squarely theatrical, his sense both of period and the theatrical milieu is powerful.
Director Eyre brings a brisk energy and knowing eye to the period textures, atmosphere and supporting characters one expects in a drama-comedy unfolding by candlelight on backstages and behind palace walls.
"Stage Beauty" has the grace and charm of a great play. It has its acts, its drama and its comedy.
A promisingly playful piece that turns out to be more interested in pleasing the general audience rather than its own heart.
It's Crudup's performance that takes the film from being dull and stage-like to exhilarating and entertaining.
This is one of those roles that actors kill for, and Cruddup hits it out of the park.
...the kind of picture that comes with challenges but is not afraid to meet them - or indeed, overcome them - head on.
Handles provocative issues of sexuality and gender with intelligence and grace
Stage Beauty pretends to be a celebration of acting, but in fact it's saying you'll be happiest if you go through life playing the most conventional role you can find.
... questions of sexual identity eventually take a subordinate position to a more obvious story about the origins of method acting.
A droll, tart-tongued film, brimming with comic and dramatic possibilities.
All too often, this period comedy-drama takes itself far too seriously.
While the names and places are authentic, the byplay between Kynaston and Maria is not.
A movie that recognizes the poetry in both Shakespeare and Benny Hill.
Kudos for at least working Claire Danes' glaringly limited abilities into the storyline. Now if they could only do something about the sophomoric script and nasty mysogyny...
At its worst, the film prioritizes its own seriousness (which it never achieves anyway) over any form of audience appeal (which is the best this material can aspire to).
Audience Reviews for Stage Beauty
Drag actor Ned Kynaston's career is ruined when Charles II reopens the theaters and allows women to appear on stage.
The historical inaccuracies of this film are distracting, but the performances by Billy Crudup and Claire Danes make the film worth watching. Crudup captures how Ned Kynaston's gender confusion extends both on stage and in his personal life, and his scenes with Danes are compelling.
What holds this film back, more than its inability to capture the spirit of its time the way The Libertine did, is the film's inability to fully explore how sexually and gender interact with societal constraints. The film could be saying that gender and sexuality are socially constructed, but this theme doesn't reach fruition.
Overall, I dislike this film mostly because of its wasted potential.
The ultimate gender confusion/sexual identity movie. I found myself liking this a great deal more than the beloved Shakespeare in Love (which I don't understand), it deals with theatre history in a way that isn't corny. Billy Crudup's performance is almost scary, his female withdrawals were extremely believable. I would say that the only bad parts of the movie are the exaggeration of some characters and the fact that there are a ridiculous amount of pointless subplots going on.More
One of my favorite Billy Crudup movies (the other-- Almost Famous). He does a fabulous performance where he is sexy, beautiful, sad and the audience truly connects with him on his venture to finding himself. Claire Danes is a perfect counterpart in her role. I don't know whom to recommend this film to, because I think a it is either a love or hate film...I loved it!More
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