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  Stage Beauty
Year: 2004
Director: Richard Eyres
Stars: Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Rupert Everett, Tom Wilkinson, Ben Chaplin, Zoe Tapper, Richard Griffiths, Hugh Bonneville, Edward Fox, Derek Hutchinson, Mark Letheren
Genre: Drama, Romance, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: What a disappointment! Richard Eyre’s Stage Beauty should have been everything I love in a film - theatrical, historical, Shakespeare, frocks, funny, sexy, interesting, intelligent - but instead was OTT, stupid and vulgar. It wasn’t even much to look at: lighting, costumes and photography creating a muted, monochrome world which was visually boring and out of sync with what was presumably intended as a bawdy romp. (One can only imagine that was the excuse for endless discussions of who has fondled Billy Crudup’s bits, the size thereof and whether or not the glove worn for such fondlings should be burnt or merely binned.)

The film purports to be a love story, Maria The Dresser (Claire Danes) pursuing Ned Kynaston The Star (Billy Crudup) knocking them out nightly in drag as Desdemona. It was impossible to care about either of them however, and as for whether or not they finally get it together... yawn, pass the chocs. (Should have re-watched Shakespeare in Love – Tom Stoppard’s glorious script stands up again and again...)

Stage Beauty also purports, with an arrogant disregard for history, to show how naturalistic acting was discovered in the 17th century. Now why did I think that happened in the mid 1900s? I wonder what else they discovered in the 17th century - electric toasters, mobile phones, television? What was all that fuss about Brando and The Method? Strange.

The Black Boy is one of my favourite British Kings, and the Restoration one of my favourite periods, but both appeared to have been entirely misunderstood - Charles II being portrayed as a decadent camp old queen, and his court as a parcel of sex-crazed freaks. A shame, as there was plenty of opportunity for fun here, but then sadly, the script was a joke-free zone, so no help there.

As for the rest of it, the main problem was that performance levels were generally theatrical rather than cinematic, the cast flinging themselves over the top with the zest of lemmings, with the exception of Claire Danes who doesn’t seem to be able to rise that far, and Tom Wilkinson who is a fine actor and knows better.

Still, there was one interesting bed scene exploring whether Ned Kynaston was gay, bi, straight, transvestite, or what combination of the foregoing; I did spot one decent frock...

and the Spaniels were swe-eet.

Reviewer: Samantha David


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