Stage Beauty Reviews
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.
It tells the tale of Ned (Billy Crudup), a young actor who specialises in portraying women on stage. In a world where only men are allowed to tread the boards, Ned's "Desdemona" (from Shakespeare's Othello) is the closest thing 17th century audiences get to femininity in theatre. However, a young upstart in the form of Maria (played by Clare Danes) wants to change all that. She has a passion for drama and unfortunately the bisexual Ned. With the help of King Charles II (Rupert Everett), she may just get her wish, changing theatre forever, and hopefully pick up Ned on the way.
When thinking of the themes of the film, many people dismiss it as a clone of Shakespeare in Love. This is unfair- the film is more thought provoking, substantial and better acted than the aforementioned Oscar snaffler. It explores themes of sexuality and gender with insight and intelligence as well as telling (and, in fact enthralling us with) a love story. As previously referred to, the acting is exceptional, especially the two leads (Danes and Crudup) who shine. The supporting cast is strong too, with Richard Griffiths as a heterosexual prequel to his role in Withnail and I, Tom Wilkinson brimming with quiet intensity as Betterton and Everett hamming it up wonderfully as the King.
Even if it does end on a slightly trite note (not to give too much away, but its' "birth of method acting" shtick irritates), Stage Beauty is a funny, heart-warming and occasionally quite cerebral meditation on love and art. What more could any theatre, or film lover for that matter, want? And don't say Shakespeare In Love!
Everyone in this movie sounds as if they inhaled helium and put on the most obnoxious accent conceivable to the human ear. Try listening to that for an hour and a half.
[font=Century Gothic]"Stage Beauty" is an intelligent, witty film that is about an actor's craft and what goes into creating a role. There is also some very good historical and period detail. I especially liked that it did not avoid the characters' sexuality.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic]Billy Crudup, himself an acclaimed stage actor(I saw him in "Arcadia" on Broadway several years ago), does a very fine job. Rupert Everett is magnificiently sublime. But I am still trying to figure out Claire Danes. The supporting cast including Tom Wilkinson, Edward Fox and Ben Chaplin(where have you been?) help immensely. [/font]
[font=Century Gothic]I cannot help but be reminded of the classic "Peking Opera Blues" but "Stage Beauty" is still an improvement over the mediocre "Shakespeare in Love" which also featured Rupert Everett. Overall, the movie is not a total success but several scenes do stand out.[/font]