8:00 PM, 23rd September, 2005
Julia Lambert (Bening) is a London theatre actress in the 1930s. An aging stage beauty, she is in her early 40s and recognises that her beauty will soon disappear as will her ingenue roles. Her marriage to her producer, Michael Gosslyn (Irons), is in name only. Weary and bored, Julia considers retirement, but her mentor, Jimmie Langdon (Gambon), suggests that she has an affair with a younger man, if anything to improve her performance. She commences an affair with Tom Fennell (Shaun Evans), a man half her age, and is flattered by the attention. Meanwhile a younger woman, Avice Crichton (Lucy Punch), auditions for a role in an upcoming play where she would be playing alongside Julia. Not only does Avice feel warmly towards Tom and sparks interest in Michael, but she seems to be getting the better lines! Feeling threatened by this young upstart, Julia devises her own ingenious revenge. Although based on W. Somerset Maugham's novella, "Theatre", the film shares much in common with an earlier Hollywood movie, All About Eve. Annette Bening gives a delightful performance as Julia, and is ably supported by a solid cast.
10:00 PM, 23rd September, 2005
Life for aspiring actresses in 1660s London sucks - mainly because they aren't legal. All female roles on the stage are played by men, and the master is Edward Kynaston (Crudup). Maria (Danes) is Kynaston's seamstress, and wants to perform on stage. She manages to convince King Charles II (Everett) into allowing women to tread the boards, which essentially reverses the fortunes of both her and Kynaston.
This might sound familiar to Shakespeare in Love - however, this film is much bawdier. In fact, the sexual innuendos and banter were my favourite aspects of Stage Beauty (the teenage-boy humour in me still lives!). There are no A-list actors here, but the players make the film enjoyable. Highlights include Everett doing an uncanny, unintentional impression of 70's Oz TV character Aunty Jack, and Danes engaging in the first incident I can recall of "ironic nudity" (you'll have to see the film to understand).
Stage Beauty is no classic (Oscar Wilde does this sort of thing much better), but it is a film that is enjoyable and worth seeing.