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Stewart Smith


Anonymous PosterHow funny. A movie about Shakespeare that isn’t a reenactment of his plays or a documentary. No, director Roland Emmerich, known for blockbusters like Independence Day (1996), has taken a turn in theme with his new political/historical thriller Anonymous.  By historical, I don’t mean it relies on actual facts, as Anonymous is entirely built upon conspiracy theory.

In the movie Anonymous, the Earl of Oxford, Edward DaVere (Rhys Ivan), lives in the Elizabethan era (1558 – 1603), when writing plays is not considered par for someone of his status.  However, born with a unique talent for the written word, he longs to make his work public.  Therefore, he entrusts the release of his work to the renowned playwright Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto).

Queen Elizabeth, who allegedly has a love affair with DaVere, is portrayed at the different ages of her life by actresses Vanessa Redgrave and her real life daughter, Joely Richardson.

Where does Shakespeare fit into all of this? Well, that is where I get a little bit pissed off. Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) is portrayed as a drunken, lying scumbag who steps up to claim the plays as his.  He cheats, steals from, and blackmails both Jonson and DaVere, and that is no hyperbole. He even attacks someone in one part. What a mockery of common belief! Just think, the filmmakers may be wrong, and if they are, they just insulted an artist. And even if they are right, who cares? We have the wonderful stories, isn’t that enough?

The movie’s plot itself was confusing and tied up. It used the method of “time jumping” far too often with far too little warning. I don’t know if this is just me, but I needed to read a summary afterwards in order to actually understand it.

But if I must praise this film for some little thing, it’s that it was a visual feast. They took the unsolved mysteries of history and brought them into the story. In addition, they tried- and succeeded- at displaying how Shakespeare plays were performed in the sixteenth century. The scenery and costumes, from the streets of London and the Globe Theatre to the Court of Queen Elizabeth, appear extremely accurate and give a great feel of the time. You have to praise the amount of research that must have gone into this.

Age Recommendation: There is blood and violence, there are sex scandals, and all these are themes that the unaware child should not see. I know there were a few dramatic parts that made me flinch. But putting all that aside, the real problem is the historical interpretation and the difficulty in understanding it. However, if your child is old enough to really “get” the movie, then by all means, let them see it. But there’s no point taking a kid to a movie if they won’t get anything out of it.

Final Verdict: Attempted to make a little known conspiracy theory public, but did a poor job of conveying it. 4/10

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{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Anthony D. Grana November 17, 2011, 11:13 pm

    UK/17 Nov.2011.
    Well done, Stewart. Fine Written Revue, Informative, Very Mature Evaluation.

  • Robert O. November 18, 2011, 7:38 am

    Excellent review Stewart. Great to see you go into detail to explain the broad ideas in the story and clarify your point of view as a young moviegoer. This is what makes a strong review and help people decide whether to spend the time and money or bring the kids to a movie. Keep up the good work!

  • Joan Stewart Smith November 18, 2011, 5:56 pm

    I agree, Stewart! Although the film clearly fictionalizes history, I can’t help but think that the real Shakespeare would have had a good laugh about it!

  • William Gutierrez December 24, 2011, 2:11 am


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