Friday, November 10, 2006

Film on Friday - Stage Beauty

This week at The Pink Heart Society's Friday Film Night, our very own Natasha Oakley is inducting Stage Beauty into the Pink Heart Movie Hall of Fame...

This month my choice is not exactly a Romantic Comedy - although I do think 'Stage Beauty' is both romantic and funny.

When it was first released I avoided this movie because it seemed unrealistic to hope Billy Crudup and Claire Danes could *both* pull off an English accent that would sound convincing to my ears - but I was so wrong. They're truly fabulous at it.

'Stage Beauty' is set in 17th century England at a time when woman were barred from acting and men played all the womens parts. Young boys were apprenticed to theatre companies, much like any other trade, and played the girls until their voices broke.

Stretching the point a little, Billy Crudup plays Ned Kynaston, one of England's most celebrated 'actresses'. Claire Danes is his dresser, a woman in love with both Ned and acting.

Watching from the wings Maria studies Ned's every move, gesture and inflection. Then, illegally, she gives a copied performance of his Desdemona at a nearby tavern.

Studying him so closely she also gets to see the grim realities of Ned's life as an 'actress'.

It's a time in English history when rich patrons could demand what they liked. As the lover of the Duke of Buckingham, played by Ben Chaplin, Ned must wear a blonde wig and pretend to be woman. For women he is also a fascination .. and equally used by them.

When news breaks that Maria is acting, a woman playing a woman, it is scandalous and thrilling. But very quickly the climate and laws change and Ned is left confused about his identity and his career is in tatters.

Maria, now known as Mrs Margaret Hughes, takes London by storm despite appalling performances.

Meanwhile, Ned is drinking heavily and reduced to singing bawdy songs in a tavern - which is where Maria finds him.

What follows is an erotically charged gender-switching sex scene during which Maria asks him, 'Why won't you play a man?'. His answer is all about beauty.

Billy Crudup gives a billiantly complex portrayal of a man who, quite literally, doesn't know who he is anymore.

Claire Danes makes a luminous Maria and is entirely convincing as both a seriously bad stage actress and a very good one.

True enough 'Stage Beauty' is full of historical inaccuracies. I believe Nell Gwyn was about 8 in 1660 and, of course, the realistic style of acting Ned coaxes out of Maria is a twentieth century phenomenon.

But, setting that aside, 'Stage Beauty' is a beautifully filmed romance with a dark heart and I can guarantee you won't feel neutral about it.

Giving it a Pink Heart Fuzzy rating is a little more difficult as it's quite a complex film dealing with very complicated issues. Maybe 7/10?


Natasha's latest release is: Accepting The Boss's Proposal a Harlequin Romance.

Check out more about this book at her website!

Or check out what Natasha is working on now at her Blog.


  1. Hi,
    I love these film reviews! I am ALWAYS so far behind with films. Is there any place on the blog there could be a list of all the films you've reviewed...just the names or should I just start my own so when I go to the video shop my mind doesn't just go blank:-)

    I'll trawl if I have to but as a reference list it would be great!

  2. I'm a film addict. Mind you, I scarcely ever go above a 15 because I'm too young!!

    My family have recently joined DVD rental. We having a fornightly movie night - with popcorn.

    Mind you, 'Stage Beauty' is no appropriate for the age of my brood just yet. But you must see it. It's so much better than 'Shakespeare in Love' which was released about the same time.

  3. Sounds intriguing. I'll try and see it.

  4. I saw this film on the TV last year and thought it was fabulous. Such a pity that I'd never heard of it before.

  5. It just got completely overshadowed by 'Shakespeare in Love'. In much the same way as Patrick Bergin's Robin Hood did by Kevin Costner's.

    It's weird how some movies simply disappear - and for no artistic reason. I much prefer Patrick Bergin as Robin. Very much sexier to my eyes. And it's really annoying I can't get it on DVD. If you're in NA you can.

  6. Oooh, I loooove the sound of this! It's a just see for me!

    Thanks Natasha!


  7. Sounds fascinating, Natasha. And I like Billy Crudup in everything I've seen him in. He always takes roles you'd least expect -- and makes them his own.

    Have not seen Patrick Bergin's Robin Hood, but I'll take a look for it. Hated Costner's. Loved Patrick Bergin in Mountains of the Moon.