I put off watching Stage Beauty for a long while, but when I finally did see it, I was drawn into a romantic, entertaining and poignant story. I was very surprised. No wonder this movie was awarded the Overlooked Film of the Year (2004) by the Phoenix Film Critics Society.
Stage Beauty is set in 17th-century England when it was against the law for a woman to act on-stage. So Maria (Claire Danes), an aspiring actress, performs secretly at an underground theatre. When she isn’t acting, she is the dresser for the handsome Ned Kynaston (Billy Crudup). Kynaston, who has been playing the female role on-stage for years, is the leading actor of his day.
Little does he know that his loyal Maria is infatuated with him. She ends up heartbroken and shocked when, one night, she sees Kynaston making out with a male co-actor. Leaving him she pursues her dream to become a respected actress and ends up creating a stir by playing Desedmona in Othello. After a series of events, King Charles II lifts the ban, allowing females to act, but enacts a new law that makes it illegal for men to play the role of a woman on-stage. This leads to Kynaston’s downfall while Maria becomes a star. Due to all that has occurred, there relationship becomes a complicated balance of resentment and compassion.
I started watching this movie thinking that the romance between the heroine and the bisexual hero wouldn’t work out, but, surprisingly, this unconventional pairing complemented the film. Stage Beauty isn’t such an empty, brainless film as I thought it’d be. Though the first half of the movie started off as if it’d be another trashy comedy, towards the latter half, there was a bit of depth to the storyline. I found myself constantly surprised throughout.
While the film had its flaws, I was able to overlook them due to the sheer entertainment of the movie.