Friday, July 29, 2005

Time well spent

What's there to do on a Friday night in a town that has a city rock festival going on? Well, you can always stay at home by yourself and rent a few excellent movies.

Which is exactly what I did tonight. :) I have to reserve my strength for tomorrow, because that'll be my party night. (I'm just hoping I'll stay awake past midnight... eh.)

So I rented two movies I'd been waiting for to appear in my neighbouring rental place. The first one was Stage Beauty, the other one Closer. (Spoilers ahead, so watch your step...)

Stage Beauty is a historical drama about the 17th century London and its theatre world. A story of a time, when the roles of women in all plays were played by men, and in the case of this movie, by a very eye-pleasing Billy Crudup. He is excellently cast into the role of Edward "Ned" Kynaston, an actor who specialises in the female roles. Kynaston's career is at its height as he plays Desdemona from Will Shakespeare's Othello night after night to cheering crowds. However, when the king issues a law forbidding men to perform on stage as women, he's left with talent he's not allowed to use and no will to live.

Add into this the character of Claire Danes' Maria, who has for years helped Mr Kynaston backstage and secretly adored the actor and dreamed of acting herself. The result is a situation, where Maria becomes the star, to much of Mr Kynaston's disbelief. And before the end credits roll, there are a few acting lessons both Maria and Mr Kynaston have to learn.

Shakespeare in Love has for years been a favourite of mine, but in some ways I liked Stage Beauty even more. I'm not sure I can point out specific reasons why, because the latter didn't (for example) make me cry, which is something SiL never fails to do. Nevertheless the story was on some level more touching in SB. Or maybe the portrayal of a man who is "the last one to do what he did", because the world happened to change and he got caught up in the turmoil is a bit more interesting than a "simple" love story. In my historian's world. Although I do admit that speculations about Shakespeare's life are always quite fascinating, too.

What was interesting about the film was that it did deal with the question of homosexuality a bit, too. There is a homosexual relationship between Kynaston and the Duke of Buckingham, even though later on, when Kynaston's days as the lady of the stage are over, the Duke quite coldly tells him off by saying he always thought of him as a woman. So there's one character who denies being gay. What about Kynaston, then?

I think the brave (and oh so right) decision would've been to let the character of Kynaston remain homosexual. Or at least make his bisexuality more apparent from the beginning. Because the way they handled his identity now just didn't feel quite right.

Here's this character, who clearly has had feelings (lust, if nothing else) for the Duke of Buckingham. He's dumped for a lady and ends up in bed with a woman himself. That scene, however, is one of the funniest and most endearing ones of the movie. Maria asks him what men do when they are with men. And Kynaston proceeds to demonstrate. :) Very cute, especially when he finally gets sort of confused about whether he's the man-woman or the man-man.

Unfortunately, the movie makers have decided to take the easy way out of a situation, where they'd have a movie with no female love interest for the handsome male lead and so the passion between Kynaston and Maria is what we end up with. No more slashy scenes with the Duke... *sigh*

So, in short, a delightful movie, despite some minor weaknesses. I'm definitely going to watch Billy Crudup a bit more closely from now on. I quite liked him in Big Fish, but turns out he's pretty good in period drama too! And I think I may have to buy the DVD for myself, too. Material for one of our girls' night, maybe. :)

Closer, then. Not an easy movie, that one. Full of angst, love, desperation, deceit and well, sex. The story evolves around four beautiful strangers (played by Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Cliwe Owen and Julia Roberts) who (to make the story short) mix and match and get hurt in the process.

My thoughts are a bit fuzzy about this movie experience still. I liked it a lot, but I suppose I need to ponder about it more to know why. I do know one reason, though. Natalie Portman. I'm beginning to like her more and more after every one of her films I see. I really loved her performance in Garden State and in this one as well. She's got real talent and when she's given proper dialogue and direction, she thrives. And I bet that it must've been a challenge to her to play a stripper - and oh my, does she do it well or what. (Or actually, how would I know since I've never seen a stripper in my life? Erm...)

Oops, I seem to have been pondering about movies for so long that it's sort of getting late. I can't even see the little bat flying about my window anymore. I think I need to go to bed, so I can have a good night's sleep. I mustn't be dead tired tomorrow... :)

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