7.1/10
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Stage Beauty (2004)

R | | Drama | 29 October 2004 (USA)
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2:25 | Trailer
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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Did You Know?

Trivia

The full title of the stage play behind this movie is Compleat Female Stage Beauty, which was reportedly the advertising poster slogan for Kynaston's female impersonations. See more »

Goofs

When Kynaston says, "I blame you for my death," he looks up at Maria, but in the next shot his head is back down. See more »

Quotes

Ned Kynaston: I'm not teaching you how to be a woman. I'm teaching you how to be Desdemona.
See more »

Connections

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

User Reviews

A Fascinating Search for What Is Male/Female On Stage
28 October 2004 | by noraleeSee all my reviews

"Stage Beauty" is a clever and moving combination of the period feel of "Shakespeare in Love" and the themes of "A Double Life." In the latter, Ronald Colman is an actor who immerses himself into his role as Othello and, as in "Beauty," continually repeats and reinterprets the murder scene, with increasing realism.

The emphasis here is on male/female gender roles on stage from just before to just after women are allowed on stage. Playwright/screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher's choice to use "Othello" as his prism is significant on many levels.

All the characters agree that the productions of the play at this time in the 1660's already included the artifice that the Moor is portrayed in blackface, though this is a serious drama of passion and not one of the lighter comedies or romances with hidden or mistaken identity. The final presentation of the key scene does have the on-screen audience terrified that the actors' animosity has led to all pretense being abandoned.

Hatcher simplifies the gender issues by focusing on a play where the leads, "Desdemona" and "Othello," are unambiguous in their sexual poles, which makes Billy Crudup's "Ned Kynaston" tortured self-discovery to move from one role to the other particularly fascinating. The movie includes a brief, comic debate about the ramifications of "Rosalind" in "As You Like It" in a time where a male actor would be portraying a Shakespearean heroine disguised as a man, in what we now consider 'trouser roles' (like "Portia" in "Merchant of Venice" or Viola in "Twelfth Night").

Set in the period of the Stuart Restoration when kings are in and out of exile and a brash cockney mistress masquerades as the queen, though Nell Gwynn's influence is doubtless exaggerated, the mise en scene is a society where all are play-acting in wigs and make-up. Ben Chaplin's Duke of Buckingham, in a much more leonine role that his milquetoasts in "The Truth About Cats and Dogs" or "Birthday Girl," wryly demonstrates as he cynically moves from an affair with "Kynaston" to a rich marriage.

Claire Danes's contrasting naturalness is luminous as she has no doubts about her femininity, but is frustrated in getting Kynaston to perceive it, and not just as another artifice. While it is an asymptotic flirtation as his sexuality is left indeterminate, it is marvelous to watch "Kynaston" tentatively and painfully learn to explore his masculine side that was suppressed since childhood, on stage and off.

The conclusion seems a cri de coeur for audiences to accept gay actors as "Stanley Kowalski" in "A Streetcar Named Desire," to get across that no matter how naturalistic the acting, it is still pretend.

Director Richard Eyre's camera work swirls around a bit too much to animate the choice dialogue, but there are also outdoor scenes of dirt, violence and cruelty that open up the action from the play, thus showing the theater as a refuge from reality.

George Fenton's score sounded marvelously appropriate to the period.

Crudup's and Danes's British accents are unfortunately a bit too bland, but convincing.


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Details

Country:

UK | USA | Germany

Language:

English

Release Date:

29 October 2004 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Stage Beauty See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$38,654, 10 October 2004

Gross USA:

$782,383

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$2,307,092
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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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