Anonymous

(2011)

Genres: Drama

Review: Anonymous

Transcript for Review: Anonymous

 

IGNATIY VISHNEVETSKY: 
 
Now, bare with me, the Oxfordian Theory is the most celebrated fringe theory in literature. In a nutshell, the idea is that the plays of William Shakespeare weren't written by William Shakespeare, but by a nobleman named Edward de Vere, who used them to caricature and attack his fellow aristocrats. The theory gets pretty convoluted -- and of course there's de Vere's death in 1604 to explain away -- but, as our next film, ANONYMOUS, demonstrates, it does make a pretty darn good movie plot. 
 
The director of ANONYMOUS is Roland Emmerich, a man who has made his name blowing up the world's most recognizable landmarks in such blockbuster disaster films as INDEPENDENCE DAY, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and 2012. Therefore, it's no surprise that he'd go after one of the greatest icons of Western culture, William Shakespeare -- who is portrayed here, in a very funny performance by Rafe Spall, as a barely-literate opportunist whose only interests are money, big breasts and booze.
 
Now, Emmerich's films are better known for their big action set-pieces than for their plot or dialogue. However, the script for this film, written by John Orloff, is easily the best and most complicated that Emmerich has ever worked with -- though that doesn't mean he skimps on the action.  
 
Look, any film that involves multiple conspiracies, royal incest and Rhys Ifans in eyeliner is going to be a little silly, but ANONYMOUS is clever enough to turn its silliness into a virtue. It's an outrageous melodrama, complete with a brooding poet, a hunchbacked villain and a lot of intrigue. This movie is lurid fun that's much smarter than it has any business being. It’s a thumbs up from me.
 
CHRISTY:
It’s a thumbs up from me now.
 
IGNATIY:
Now?
 
CHRISTY:
I kind of went back and forth on it. I’m feeling a little bit conflicted about it because the more I thought about it the less I liked it, but there is a lot that I do like.  I love Rhys Ifans in this.  It’s very showy, very flamboyant.  It’s sexy.  It’s smart.
 
IGNATIY:
It’s easily the best lead performance in a Roland Emmerich movie.
 
CHRISTY:
It might be, and that’s tough to choose. How do you choose?
 
IGNATIY:
So tough, so tough to choose between them.
 
CHRISTY:
But some of this is very Roland Emmerich-y.  There are some big aerial kind of swooping shot that reminds you you’re in the hands of a blockbuster filmmaker.
 
IGNATIY:
I mean the guy really knows how to handle spectacle.  He’s a showman, and that really comes across here to me that’s what makes the movie work.
 
CHRISTY:
I like the performances.  I like Rhys Ifans.  I like the idea that Vanessa Redgrave and her daughter Julia Richardson both play Queen Elizabeth I at different periods of time.  They’re both sexy and that’s a lot of fun to see the two of them it seems like a gimmick somewhat but it really does work. And the idea that Shakespeare in real life was actually just this livid fool is fun idea, too.
 
IGNATIY:
I also like the idea of Christopher Marlowe is sort of a backstabbing villain.
 
CHRISTY:
And at the same time you praise the melodrama, I think it gets too melodramatic and it quite often spells things out that should be obvious, and that kind of bothered me, too.  It’s a little too on the nose for me.
 
IGNATIY:
 It’s not the most nuanced of films, you know, I’ll admit that, but I think it’s really really entertaining.
 
CHRISTY:
That is charitable.