REVIEW: Anonymous

"A clever side to a mysterious tale."

The enigma surrounding the legitimacy of Shakespeare's exploits is a two sided story which most of us have only heard the half of.  This side explores the idea of an English nobleman being the true mind behind the many plays afforded to William Shakespeare.  

It's hard to believe that some people wouldn't be able to name three former presidents of the United States (some not even one) and yet, nearly everyone over the age of sixteen knows who William Shakespeare is.  Not surprising though, as most of us were spoon fed nearly all his plays throughout our educational career.  Of all the writing figures out there, Shakespeare was the focal point of most English curriculums...whether we liked it or not.  As an English major, I never really questioned this logic beyond the fact that some of those plays were terribly monotonous and boring.  It wasn't until I was older that I discovered the existence of a secret society of people who believed Shakespeare to be a fraud.  I thought it a joke at first (albeit an interesting one), I mean, how could it be true, right?  Because God knows, I'd be apt to go looking for some of my old teachers and professors fully intending to beat them to death with a hard copy of Romeo and Juliet.  ANONYMOUS fuels this desire.

It's funny, I don't recall where I first hear it, but the concept was described to me with this underlining thesis; Romeo and Juliet was the only play physically tied to Shakespeare but even then, it was based upon a poem written by someone else, basically labelling Shakespeare a copycat as well as fraud.  This film however, explores an even vaster terrain in check with a similar theory found in the telling of Jack the Ripper's tale (some believe Jack to have been a nobleman as well).  ANONYMOUS would have us believe the plays and works of William Shakespeare were only passed to him because it was frowned upon to be a writer in those days, especially if you were a man of nobility. 

The political intrigue found therein as a result of this theory was fascinating to say the least, of course, this coming for a guy whose apt to believe this story rather than pass it off as blasphemy.  I've always been a fan of Rhys Ifans and his portrayal of Edward, Earl of Oxford was magnificent.  That said, this film's true appeal (for me anyway) came from the new light William Shakespeare's character is presented in (obviously), but most importantly from the revealing of Queen Elizabeth's more provocative side.  It's beyond hilarious to see Shakespeare portrayed as a bumbling, illiterate imbecile (the scene where he's asked to prove otherwise by writing a simple letter "E" or "I" is priceless and worth watching the film for alone), and the Queen, well, I can see how this would ruffle a few feathers, but it's equally entertaining I assure you.

ANONYMOUS is the most fun one can get out of a historical piece without going overboard (in all honesty this flick is presented in a GAME OF THRONES sort of fashion which only added to my delight).  Fact, fiction, who can be sure, but engrossing, bold and diabolically cynical are definitely attributes this film wears with pride.  I wasn't a fan of the incestuous aspect of things, but then again, this was a common place back in the day so it didn't come off as much of a surprise.  I rather enjoyed an Elizabethan era ruled by the sword rather than the quill, not to mention a more serious approach just as heavy on war as it is on politics and religion.  This may not be an film to get overly excited about, but it sure beats sitting down with Romeo and Juliet.

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