Anonymous

8 Dec

Title: Anonymous
Year: 2011
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer: John Orloff
Starring: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis, Xavier Samuel, Sebastian Armesto, Rafe Spall, Edward Hogg, Jamie Campbell Bower, Derek Jacobi
MPAA Rating: PG-13, some violence and sexual content
Runtime: 130 min
Major Awards: –
IMDb Rating: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 46%

Anonymous is probably the best Roland Emmerich film, which is obviously not that high a praise when you consider the guy is usually just concentrating in destroying the whole world with films like Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 and not really in making actual high quality films. And while Anonymous is still far from a slam dunk, it’s definitely a very decent flick, and it still has Mr. Emmerich’s trademark fetish for hugely imposing visuals and overwrought sentimentality to it. It was nice to see the man tackling a slower-paced story for once, one in which you actually had a story going along, even though once you really start thinking about the theory the film proposes it becomes less and less convincing.

That theory, of course, being the one that said that William Shakespeare didn’t really write the great body of work always attributed to the Bard. It’s an issue academics have dabbled over, providing different possible answers, and it’s one that Anonymous tries to offer its own answer to, setting itself in Elizabethan England, giving us political schemes for power and a romance to try and figure out who the rightful author of Shakespeare’s work really was.

Unfortunately, like I said, this film sucks when it actually tries to make its case. This is the one film that actually would have benefited from Mr. Emmerich’s tendency to make things dumber than they should be, had it been more superficial it wouldn’t have had a problem with just rolling full steam ahead with its more outlandish elements, but the fact that it actually stopped every so often to try to present and persuade us of its case just diminished the level it could have otherwise achieved.

However, the film does have something to really go for it, which makes those parts in which it’s just mindless scheming in Elizabeth times really really fun, and that’s its very talented cast, which is of course led by Vanessa Redgrave who seems to be having a ball with this material and is far and out the only genuine great thing about this movie, good enough to make it worthy of a recommendation. Yes, this is a pretty crazy experience, it’s like a Shakesperean B-movie, but, you have to admit, while it butchers the rich tradition of the Bard, spits on the annals of history and presents a pretty dumb theory, it’s a pretty fun flick once it’s all said and done, and once you look at who directed it you have to assume that’s the only thing it was trying to achieve, and wasn’t coming forth with a more intellectual and profound agenda.

Let yourself loose of all the atrocities it does to tradition and you’ll see there’s a decent flick in here, there’s good dialogue, there’s good intrigue, and there are really good performances. I’ve read reviews that said this was a dull movie, and nothing could be farther from the truth, it can be many things in more than one occasion, but not dull. And once you start seeing how ridiculous this film is, how it’s making and rewriting the history it’s supposedly portraying, you’ll realize that, weird as it may sound, Mr. Emmerich was the perfect director for this film, you needed a guy who would make this nonsense with his indelible sense of conviction.

Plus, again, there’s Vanessa Redgrave here as Queen Elizabeth I and her performance alone is worth the price of admission. And there are also a slew of really capable British performers standing next to her, including Rhys Ifans, who I found to be a really pleasant surprise as the Earl of Oxford, the man who supposedly did the writings attributed to Shakespeare, a guy who wrote a play, Henry V, and wanted to have it produced under another playwright’s name, Ben Jonson, who refused and told him to get another guy, which is how Shakespeare comes into the equation. Mr. Ifans was fantastic in this film, makes me really curious to see what he does with The Lizard in next summer’s Spider-Man reboot.

This is a decent flick, people, ignore those who say it’s just dumb stuff that didn’t actually happen, they’re all probably ticked off Stratfordians. The truth is that Anonymous is a film full of juicy intrigues and scheming and jealousies, and if it doesn’t touch upon all the subtleties that superior films would’ve no doubt exploited, don’t get picky, this is still Roland Emmerich, just enjoy this for what it is, an entertaining B-movie set in Elizabeth times, and just typing that sounded fun. Great actors abound here, and I found it neat that Ms. Redgrave and her real-life daughter, Joely Richardson, play the younger and older versions of Queen Elizabeth; there are great moments in which the tonality of the film is nicely marked by bits and pieces of Shakespeare plays we get to see; and there’s a really good use of the special effects Mr. Emmerich is so fond of, as the London of the time he creates comes to life in a rather neat fashion. And, one last time, see this because of Vanessa Redgrave, she’s genius in this film even if the film itself isn’t.

Grade: B

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