Period Film: Stage Beauty (2004)


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.

Period Movie Collection

8 thoughts on “Period Film: Stage Beauty (2004)

  1. I too had to wait till the DVD was released to see this movie but I had so longed to watch it at the cinema. It wasn’t widely distributed so it was not on in any cinema near my town. Then when I saw it, though I was really interested in the story and historical context, I was a bit disappointed. Anyhow, it is an original movie, different, and also brave in a certain way. I expected another SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE but, no way, this is not at that level. Have a nice day, June.


    • I tried to look for the DVD of this everywhere but couldn’t find it. My only choice was to buy it online. But because the reviews weren’t that great I decided not to watch it. Until the day I found it on Youtube. I think my reaction would have been different had I, like yourself, paid and waited to watch it. I’m guessing you watched this with somewhat of a high expectation? I had none 🙂 And it definately is not another SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE haha.


  2. I love this movie! Crudup is a brilliant actor – I liked how he still managed to ooze masculinity (and me to have my little crushes) despite being a female-stage actress. And when he played Orthello at the end, with Claire Danes as Des, they just had amazing chemistry and performance and intensity! One of my almost-daily quotes with my sisters is “OOOORRRRthello?”, said in a high pitched voice. 😀


    • I was amazed myself that I fell for Crudup. You’d think that a man who plays a woman and who also takes interest in other men would not be able to stir a female’s romantic fancy. But he did! I liked him a lot. Now I’m looking for more movies starring him.


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