Claire Danes in "Stage Beauty"

Discuss former or new projects of Claire Danes ("Angela Chase") in this forum.
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Post by TomSpeed » Oct 8th 2004, 8:06 pm

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Post by Sascha (sab) » Oct 11th 2004, 4:37 am

In limited release, Billy Crudup and Claire Danes' Restoration-era theatre drama Stage Beauty did solid business, opening with $39,000 in three theatres.
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"Stage Beauty" review: Art wins over artifice

Post by Greybird » Oct 16th 2004, 7:57 am

It's the best time I've had, witnessing Claire Danes's craft, since "Romeo + Juliet," at least ... possibly since "My So-Called Life."

"Stage Beauty" does what any good period piece does, whether set 300 years ago or 300 years from now. It takes us back into that setting, finds evocative and well-turned characters, and has them bring up plot matters that resonate. With us, that is ... not necessarily with those who were, or will be, actually living in the time depicted.

I say this because the central element of the story has been described as unbelievable or unconvincing by some critics. Ned Kynaston is pulled from personal and professional despair, through the insight and love of Maria, and they create a triumph out of this by bringing some real emotion to the Restoration stage.

This has been decried as bringing Method acting to the 17th Century. It's nothing of the kind. It brings innovation into a fertile, provocative period of history. It may have indeed taken another quarter-millennium to get away from the artifice of gesture on the stage. What is important is that "Stage Beauty" makes you believe that these characters could have accomplished it in the 1660s.

If you can live with that, showing a success on stage that we can believe, even if it couldn't "actually have happened" ... then you'll enjoy this story. I was riveted by the way Ned and Maria turn their mutual fortunes around. So was Rupert Everett's wryly spoken Charles II, and so, I suspect, will you.

The story is ultimately about Ned, his withering and growth in the face of adversity, and Billy Crudup shows a huge range of emotions in carrying out this character's experiences. Complacency, haughtiness, sardonic amusement, appalled shock, tenderness -- but most of all, a crushing verdict on his own abilities, delivered before Charles and his mistress in a setting that only adds to his humiliation. I was taken entirely out of that moment in how I felt for him, almost an out-of-body experience.

Maria is the mainspring to Ned's watch face, and Claire shows her own range and depth of feeling. She takes the winds of celebrity, itself something new for that time, and runs with them. Though she's not past being bewildered by them, especially when her portrait is being painted. Her suffering in the wings of several theaters -- even one abasing setting, for Ned, that's hardly worth even being called a "theater" -- shows several depths of love, for acting as such, for brilliance of technique, for Ned himself.

She almost never talks directly of love. (Hugh Bonneville's perceptive Samuel Pepys helps bring it out at one crucial turning point.) She shows her love to Ned, to all levels of him, without once actually saying so.

The two are left seemingly adrift at the end, with her final question and his response -- I'll leave that moment, and the elegant visual allusion to their private life, for you. Yet their regard for each other transcends everything that is thrown at them -- from his raging self-doubt, to the royal court's machinations and violence, to her being obsessed with acting technique at the expense of creating passion and fire.

This is a story of words transcending gestures and artifice. The words win out, whether in backstage maneuvering, unexpected honesty (even from the King's mistress!), or gauging what can be done with a character. It's a brave new world of being direct, getting past evasions and imitations of emotions, and we can see Ned and Maria setting sail toward it. You'll rejoice for them.

Claire inhabits her character. She simply is English, no question -- her accent is perfect. As for past artifice, I'll save those here from looking for one particular element: Her chin doesn't quiver. Attitudes are shown entirely through her demeanor and dialogue, and that's one sign of her coming fully into her own craft. I was simultaneously rooting for Maria's and Claire's successes. Maria evokes Ned's best qualities in their country sojourn, a remarkably sexy and potent passage ... and they stay nearly fully clothed.

The Restoration physical settings are perfect. Dark enough for post-exile, pre-Fire London, entirely believable for courts, stages, and back-stages. The score is evocative, with the twangs of Scots influence that came over to mountain folk in North America, and I hope the soundtrack CD is available soon.

Every element immerses us in this world, even with the acting paradigm shift I noted above. One can believe in these characters and their difficulties, and it ultimately comes to matter little that this is the 1660s. It's a human triumph that simply can't be denied, and which is timeless. Not every question of their lives is answered, for Ned and Maria, but you know that they're embarking toward a New World of finding out about themselves -- more metaphorical than the journey undertaken at the end of "Shakespeare in Love," but also more believable.

Yes, Claire does do properly by the Bard, being affected profoundly by his work this time around, rather than (in "R+J") being immersed in it. You will believe it, and the Motion Picture Academy had bloody well better believe it.

=====

If you live in or near Los Angeles, the showing in Pasadena (one of four this week, until wide release) at Laemmle's Playhouse 7 has one of Claire's elegant gold-colored stage costumes on display under glass, along with a huge photo of her wearing it in the film. Do go out of your way to see it, if you can.
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Post by chaseface888 » Oct 24th 2004, 1:51 pm

I saw it, and it was a wonderfully good movie.
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Post by EWU MSCL fan » Jan 25th 2005, 3:56 am

Stage Beauty comes out to DVD and VHS on March 8th in the U.S.

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Post by TomSpeed » Jan 26th 2005, 8:51 am

EWU MSCL fan wrote:Stage Beauty comes out to DVD and VHS on March 8th in the U.S.
Coolies. I'm looking forward to adding it to my collection.
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Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
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Post by SanDeE* » Apr 18th 2005, 8:48 am

I just rented this over the weekend, and I must say I liked it a lot. My boyfriend, however, ended up on the internet looking at ESPN.com. <sigh> But overall, I did like it. It is one that I will be recommending to my mother, she's into period movies.
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Post by svenkid » Sep 16th 2006, 3:38 am

just rented this. great movie and great acting by both lead roles.
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