Movies: Stage Beauty

I don’t generally get to see the movies I’m interested in while they’re in the theaters, but I generally at least know that they’re in theaters. In this case I didn’t know Stage Beauty had even been filmed.

Stage Beauty tells the story of Ned Kynaston, an actor during the 1660’s when women’s roles were played by men. Those who have read Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Trilogy will be familiar with the setting.

When the king decrees that women can now play women and that men cannot, Ned goes from being one of the most celebrated actors of woman’s roles in London to a virtual nobody. In the meantime, his dresser becomes one of the first actresses and a friend of the king’s mistress.

I’d write more about the story, but if anyone’s tempted to see it on my recommendation I don’t want to spoil anything.

A couple things I will mention though:
–I’d heard that acting during that period was more formal and did not try to be as “realistic” as modern acting does. If that’s true (and I may have heard wrong), then these characters step toward modern acting in the course of this film. I don’t know whether that reflects history or not. Someone who actually knows something about the history of acting might be capable of critiquing that.
–As someone who’s done a little bit of work in the sociology of gender, I couldn’t help but note that the film played around with notions of gender and sexuality. Some people may find that interesting.

In any case, I recommend it.

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