Despite the Roland Emmerich glitz and glamour that has absolutely nothing to do with Shakespeare and the overt repetition of names like Marlowe and Jonson (remember, they wrote plays too!), Anonymous is a success and Emmerich, though some may question with such a topic and tease for a few of the EXTREME wide shots, has managed to capture what truly matters about Shakespeare, the written word.

The Plot:

The film explains one of the many theories about who actually penned Shakespeares writings, playing with the idea that it may not have been Shakespeare himself.

The Players:

  • Directed by: Roland Emmerich
  • Written By: John Orloff
  • Cast: Rhys Ifans (Earl of Oxford), Vanessa Redgrave (Older Queen Elizabeth I), Sebastian Armesto (Ben Jonson), Rafe Spall (William Shakespeare), David Thewlis (William Cecil), Edward Hogg (Robert Cecil), Xavier Samuel (Earl of Southampton), Sam Reid (Earl of Essex), Jamie Campbell Bower (Young Earl of Oxford), Joely Richardson (Young Queen Elizabeth I)

The Good:

  • The Heart: Despite it’s grand, Hollywood look, the film never forgets what it’s there to do, tell a story about what Shakespeare — the name, the plays, the legacy and most importantly the words. His words surpassed him in his own life and have continued to live on in ways “Anonymous” never could have imagined. The movie shows both that it is the written word, not the hand that wrote them that’s so important and apparently, that writing is one of the most painful career choices a man can make, but must me done! The fact that his words have been remembered, adored, used to torture almost every high school student at some point, and loved for centuries, shows us how great the “man” was, but the film shows us the price he (may have) paid to do so.
  • The Prologue and Epilogue: Emmerich begins by taking us behind the curtain and into a tale, and he, much like Shakespeare sets his stage for the drama he will soon lay upon his stage. It’s a aesthetically and metaphorically beautiful opening, wonderfully delivered by Derek Jacobi.
  • Rhys Ifans: A personal favorite, his mannerisms and subtly gave the film the depth and honesty that made the film work. Through the chaos of his character, he helps tie up the film and truly capture the heart of the character, the film, and strike meaning of what it really means to be a tortured writer.
  • Vanessa Redgrave/Joely Richardson: Both played Queen Elizabeth I at different ages. Often watching two actors play one character can be problematic because the character is split between two perspectives. Not only did they both give wonderfully dynamic performances but they also tied together their roles seamlessly. Both were a pleasure to watch on screen whenever they arrived.

The So-So:

  • Play on Reality: The way that some things come together, were quite convenient, but hey, the whole story is a fictitious conspiracy theory, so when all the right or wrong things happen at the perfect time, it’s somewhat easy to forgive… but not overlook.

The Bad:

  • Accents: Some of the accents, and overtly deep voices felt too performance-y, like someone trying to put on a big Shakespeare play instead of allowing the people to speak the spoken word.
  • The Time Changes: We jump back and forth between two different time periods through the film (not including the opening and closing) and at times it got a touch confusing as to what time period we were in. Normally when a film does this, their is a visual cue or a character that we follow. In this film, sometimes we would jump through time following smaller players and it was hard to remember what era was on screen until a Queen finally walked in. It’s something that’s not impossible to figure out, but does leave you always asking, which therefore makes you less engaged.


So yes, this was a big-budget Shakespeare film, made for almost anyone to be able to understand (with some extra touches for the Shakespearan’s), but at the heart of it, one can’t deny it’s message, and the greatness that is Shakespeare. And for those who complain about the over-done fight scenes, sex scenes, nearly over dramatic acting, and extreme CGI, just remember, if given the opportunity, Shakespeare would have done and did do the same — he was just a little ways away from green screens and crowd duplication, but he would have! And with public schools dwindling in funds, maybe this is good chance for a bit of a history/lit lesson!

Rating: 7.75

Anonymous is in theaters October 14th.

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