A&E

Anonymous’ is an affront to Shakespeare’s work

Image
William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) gets carried away by the crowd.

The Details

Anonymous
Two stars
Rhys Ifans, Sebastian Armesto, Vanessa Redgrave
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Rated PG-13
Beyond the Weekly
Official Movie Site
IMDb: Anonymous
Rotten Tomatoes: Anonymous

All of the attention and controversy focused on Roland Emmerich’s tepid historical thriller Anonymous has been about the movie’s perspective on the writing of William Shakespeare, but the big problem with Anonymous is that it doesn’t actually care about Shakespeare’s work at all. The question of whether Shakespeare in fact wrote the pieces attributed to him is treated as little more than a plot device for a tiresome Elizabethan soap opera, featuring Edward de Vere (Rhys Ifans), the Earl of Oxford, as the man behind the plays.

Emmerich (known for bombastic big-budget spectacles like 2012 and Independence Day) and screenwriter John Orloff reduce the plays to political tools divorced from artistry, spending more time on tedious, historically questionable conspiracies than on wordplay and theatricality. The loud, overwrought Anonymous is an affront to the richness and beauty of Shakespeare’s work—no matter who really wrote it.

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Josh Bell

Josh Bell is the film editor for Las Vegas Weekly, where he's been writing movie and TV reviews since 2002. ...

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