how to buy tadalafil online

Movie Review: ‘Anonymous’

November 4, 2011

Roland Emmerich tackles the contentious issue of who really penned the works of William Shakespeare in Anonymous, a sudsy bodice-ripping soap opera set during Elizabethan era London. The story embraces the Oxford theory of Shakespeare authorship; that the Earl of Oxford actually wrote the works we celebrate.  William Shakespeare was but a dim-witted actor who took the credit. It’s an interesting premise, but at the end of the day, who really cares? The works exist, and whoever wrote them will always be William Shakespeare, even if he wasn’t really William Shakespeare. Make sense?  Neither does the movie.

Anonymous looks good, and fulfills all the superficial requirements of a good old period piece. The set pieces and costumes are gorgeous, and the film is well acted, but the story (by John Orloff)  is a convoluted mess. Keeping the contiguous storylines straight would require a detailed flow chart, something I wasn’t privy to during my screening. Consequently, the movie was well into its third act before I finally figured out who some of the central characters actually were. Without any prior knowledge of Shakespeare’s story, I found the film a frustrating and tedious. It’s a pity, because there is a great movie buried under the rubble, and a streamlined script would have changed things dramatically.

Anonymous begins (after a brief intro from real-life Shakespeare actor Derek Jacobi) with the arrest of playwright Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto). The rest of the film unfolds through flashbacks, and multiple actors play multiple characters in different flashbacks. This works splendidly when real life mother and daughter Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson play Queen Elizabeth at different ages. It’s a real treat to see the women on screen in the same film, and it was a stroke of genius to cast the two as the same woman.

However, it does not work as well when it comes to several of the male characters; Edward De Vere-Earl of Oxford (played by Rhys Ifans, Jamie Campbell Bowers, and Luke Thomas Taylor), the Earl of Essex, the Earl of Southampton, and hunchback villain Robert Cecil. Each of them is played by at least two actors. There is also the actor William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson to keep straight. Complicating matters further is the unfortunate fact hat almost every man in the film has the same facial hair as well as hair color. Since most of the actors are not household names, this makes it very difficult to keep the characters straight, my biggest problem with the film.

There are three distinct storylines as well; Queen Elizabeth’s trampy liaisons that result in a multitude of bastard offspring, Edward De Vere’s inability to live out his true destiny as a writer, and the attempt to overthrow Queen Elizabeth by Earl of Essex and Earl of Southampton. A lot of behind the scenes drama unfolds at the infamous Globe Theatre. All these elements never pull together seamlessly; rather the film jumps from one storyline and/or flashback to another. It’s exhausting.

That being said, there is much to like about the film. The acting is solid, and Rhys Ifans is really remarkable in the role of Edward De Vere. I was impressed with Emmerich’s ability to bring 16thcentury London to life, and the scenes at the Globe Theatre feel particularly authentic. Those with a prior knowledge of Elizabethan history or Shakespeare will certainly find the film more enjoyable than the average layperson. It succeeds as a costume drama, but fails as a compelling story.

Rating 3/5

Anonymous is rated PG-13. Directed by Roland Emmerich, written by John Orloff. Starring Vanessa Redgrave, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, Edward Hogg, and Xavier Samuel.

I’m no historian, but it seems best to go into this film treating it as pure fiction. Those in the know maintain that there is not one shred of actual evidence to back up the Oxford theory. Historical drama purists are likely to be angered by the liberties the story takes. However, if you take it with a grain of salt and can prevent getting mired down by the story, you just might enjoy yourself.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “ Movie Review: ‘Anonymous’ ”

  1. Howard Schumann on November 4, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Does it ever occur to you that “those in the know” might have something at stake if the true author was known? There is compelling circumstantial evidence that the Earl of Oxford was the true author.

    I think it ought to be more widely known that there is very little evidence to suggest that the man from Stratford actually wrote the plays or anything else for that matter. In fact, every bit of genuine documentary evidence we have about the man could probably be listed in a three-page Word document.

    In most Shakespeare biographies, there is one page of fact and 699 pages of conjecture – “he could have”, “he might have”, “it’s probable that”, it’s even likely that,” and so forth. Much of the biography that academics take as established fact will be seen, on closer inspection, to have been largely spun from whole cloth and then transformed in time from supposition to unassailable truth.

    In their campaign to destroy Emmerich and his film, the academic establishment has joined hands with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust with the sole purpose of stifling debate. Unfortunately, the compliant media chimes in without thinking for themselves, though there have been some notable exceptions and your review is fair and balanced so thank you for that.

    Elizabeth is treated with dignity throughout the film and it posits only that she had two children by noblemen. In actuality, there were rumors during her lifetime that she had five children, the first when she was raped at the age of 14 by Thomas Seymour.

    She was a strong, highly intelligent and sensuous woman and it would not surprise me if she had sex during her lifetime being that she never married.

  2. Anthony Arends on November 4, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed the film, the portrayal of Elizabeth 1 was brilliant, as were the scenes of London and the performance of the plays at the Globe. Ordinary folk actually had dirty faces for once in a film.
    One clincher for me that ‘Shakespeare ne’er wrote Shakespeare’ is the portrayal of kings,eg Richard 2nd and Richard 3rd. Both kings have ordinary feelings fear,greed, love, vengeance, jealousy. No ordinary man or woman in Tudor would know that – sovereigns were God’s represebtative on earth, they didn’t have normal feelings. Only someone mixing in court circles could know that monarchs were just like other folk. Who could be in a better position to understand that than the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere?

  3. Howard Schumann on November 4, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Well written, Anthony. It is hard to get people to open their eyes, but that day will come soon.

  4. Leroy on November 6, 2011 at 10:31 am

    I really enjoyed the film. I was interested in how Emmerich would tell the story, and he knew what he was walking about; and you can tell he is passionate about the film. I’m glad to hear that people are talking more about Shakespeare. Regardless of whoever wrote the plays, it was a great film. I would love to go see it again.

  5. Laura Gibson on November 6, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I really enjoyed the acting from Rhys Ifans, what a great play on Edward De Vere. I too agree that the scenes of London were incredible! Emmerich does know good film.