7.2/10
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106 user 98 critic

Stage Beauty (2004)

R | | Drama | 29 October 2004 (USA)
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ON DISC
A female theatre dresser creates a stir and sparks a revolution in seventeenth century London theatre by playing Desdemona in Othello. But what will become of the male actor she once worked for and eventually replaced?

Director:

Richard Eyre

Writers:

Jeffrey Hatcher (play), Jeffrey Hatcher (screenplay)
4 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Derek Hutchinson ... Stage Manager
Mark Letheren Mark Letheren ... Male Emilia / Dickie
Claire Danes ... Maria Hughes
Billy Crudup ... Ned Kynaston
Tom Wilkinson ... Thomas Betterton
Ben Chaplin ... George Villiers II - Duke of Buckingham
Hugh Bonneville ... Samuel Pepys
Jack Kempton Jack Kempton ... Call Boy
Alice Eve ... Miss Frayne
Fenella Woolgar ... Lady Meresvale
David Westhead ... Harry
Nick Barber ... Nick
Stephen Marcus ... Thomas Cockerell
Richard Griffiths ... Sir Charles Sedley
Zoë Tapper ... Nell Gwynn
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Storyline

Based in the 1660's of London's theaters, this film is about the rules of gender roles in theatre production, and means to change them for everyone's benefit. Ned Kynaston is the assumedly gay cross-dressing actor who has been playing female parts in plays for years, particularly Desdemona in Othello, he also has a close relationship with a member of the Royal Court, the Duke of Buckingham. One day however, the rules of only men playing women could change when aspiring actress Maria auditions as Kynaston's praised role, Desdemona, and soon enough, King Charles II decides to make the law that all female roles should be played only by women. Maria becomes a star, while Ned finds himself out of work. But after a while, Ned finds it in his nature to forgive Maria's aspiration, they may even fall in love, and Charles may proclaim women will be played by either gender. Written by Jackson Booth-Millard

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She was the first of her kind. He was the last of his.

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexual content and language | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA | Germany

Language:

English

Release Date:

29 October 2004 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Belleza prohibida See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£128,035 (United Kingdom), 5 September 2004, Limited Release

Opening Weekend USA:

$38,654, 10 October 2004, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$776,691, 28 November 2004
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Kate Winslet was originally offered the female lead but she pulled out shortly before filming started. See more »

Goofs

The "naturalistic" acting, as Ned and Maria perform in the later part of the movie, wasn't done until the 19th century. The "series of poses" acting done in the early scenes was the norm for some time after the film is set. See more »

Quotes

Ned Kynaston: [discussing Maria's first Othello show] Did you go round after?
George Villiars, Duke of Buckingham: Oh, too crowded. Pepys went. If two mice were fucking in a nutshell, he'd find room to squeeze in and write it down.
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Connections

Referenced in The Daily Show: Billy Crudup (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

Good but succumbs to modern sentimentality
3 May 2005 | by pekinmanSee all my reviews

I was very impressed by Billy Crudup's portrayal of Ned Kynaston, the last of the great English actors who specialized in Shakespeare's female heroines. The only other film I had seen this actor in was 'Big Fish' and that was a performance that, as it turns out, has grown in stature with each subsequent viewing. One of those quiet, difficult roles that Crudup does to perfection, as it turns out. He never over-plays or attempts to steal a scene. And in Big Fish his character is never meant to steal scenes... who could from Albert Finney! But in the hospital room Crudup manages to bash the viewer with quite an emotional wallop, showing a depth that had hitherto gone unappreciated. In 'Stage Beauty' Crudup never resorts to eye-fluttering she-male antics in order to convey his understanding, indeed internalization, of the eternally feminine principals that are so foreign to most men. He avoids what might have been high-camp in the hands of a lesser actor.

It is also remarkable how beautiful Crudup IS as a woman. He's not what I'd call a "beautiful" man, though he is very appealing, and his sexuality is muted, both as a gay man in his relationship with the Duke of Buckingham, wonderfully performed by Ben Chaplin (now THERE'S a sexy man!) and his burgeoning interest in Claire Danes' Maria. Though that last relationship never rings very true, nor does the director attempt to shove it down our throats as being really feasible for the homosexual Kynsaston to suddenly desire without qualm the lovely Maria.

Danes is quite good in the early scenes as the long-suffering hand-maiden to her male "star" (Crudup). It isn't her fault if the character becomes a tad maudlin in later scenes and a bit more annoying than endearing. She is stretched to the limit in the Desdemona/ Othello scene she plays with Crudup, the latter playing the Moor with uncanny ease, he must be quite a Shakespearean on stage! But Danes is not to be faulted in what is probably a misfire in the concept of this scene, developing as it does out of the stylized acting of Crudup's Desdemona and then leaping wildly into the Method school of acting for this last performance of Desdemona's death. A bit of an anachronism that spoils the film's ultimate impact, but not too much.

There is a wonderful performance of Charles II by Rupert Everett. He seems to specialize in royalty and always holds the eye effortlessly. Everett is getting better and better as he gets older. I look forward to the day when he's a cynical old actor like Ian McKellan who can do anything he pleases brilliantly.

I always enjoy Richard Griffiths who is here Lord Charles, an obese fop with a rapier wit, delivering some juicy and subtle quips to hilarious effect.

The setting is good, if a bit stagy. There is one shot of the old London Bridge with houses and shops built on it that is quite remarkable. The atmosphere of 17th century London is captured quite nicely, which can't have been an easy thing to do. Costumes and other technical credits are beyond reproach.

But somehow this isn't a "great" film, but a very good one and worth repeated viewings.

7 out of 10.


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