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Stage Beauty

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
Stage Beauty
from Film Forum, 10/28/04

In Shakespeare in Love, Gwyneth Paltrow charmed audiences by playing an actress who broke a primary rule of 17th-century theatre—women were forbidden to act in a play, and men had to play women's roles.

Now, director Richard Eyre's Stage Beauty picks up the same theme. Billy Crudup (Almost Famous) plays Edward, an actor who is especially talented in playing beautiful women. When Charles II decides to let women take the stage, Edward's career falls apart, and his stage dresser Marie (Clare Danes) becomes an actress herself. Crudup and Danes are joined by an impressive supporting cast that includes Tom Wilkinson (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Ben Chaplin (The Truth About Cats and Dogs) and Hugh Bonneville (Iris).

"The story is told in a rip-roaring, lusty ambience, appropriate to the period," says Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service). "Though the film dabbles in sexual confusion, it ends with an affirmation of heterosexual sex. [The two central characters] lose some of their period authenticity by the end, though, when suddenly they seem like two very contemporary kids sorting out their problems. The dramatized—and anachronistic—transformation of acting styles from artificial to naturalistic doesn't quite ring true, though admittedly it makes for good drama."

Mainstream critics are taking sides, but few are passionate.