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?
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
Kate Winslet was originally offered the female lead but she pulled out shortly before filming started. See more »
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 »
Billy Crudup is an actor I follow with feverish anticipation. I saw him for the first time on Broadway, about 10 years ago, in a Stoppard play. It was love at first sight. A sensual, magnetic, beautiful man. "Jesus Son" "Waking the Dead" and "Almost Famous" confirmed my initial impression. Here we have an actor for the ages. A unique, monumental talent. "Stage Beauty" however, gives me pause. Billy is entrusted with a bigger than life role and he comes out of it with a half cooked, self conscious, affected performance. He underlines every other line with a semi smile, a slight pressure of the mouth as if he didn't trust the power of his own delivery. It could be treated as a character trait if you've never seen Billy Crudup before but that tic belongs to the actor not to the character. I'm, of course, being a bit anal retentive. At his weakest, Billy is stronger than most but my expectations are so high that something like that would throw me out of my involvement with his character. The film as a whole is lovely and fun. The one most effective element is Rupert Everett's performance as Charles II, his best - an that is saying a lot - in many, many moons. Comparasions with "Shakespeare in Love" are unavoidable but totally misguiding. See it for what it is and you'll enjoy it thoroughly.
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