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Anonymous: "If Plays are Indeed Such A Sin. I Pray That I Do Not Find My Salvation Until Very Late In Life"

Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer:    John Orloff
Starring: Rhys Ifans
               Vanessa Redgrave
               Joely Richardson
               David Thewlis
               Rafe Spall
               Xavier Samuel
               Sebastian Armesto
               Edward Hogg
               Jamie Campbell Bower
               Helen Baxendale
               Derek Jacobi
Rating:    **

Home Release: 05/03/12

So Anonymous is a dramatic period piece that is based around that whole urban legend that Shakespeare never actually wrote those plays/sonnets/poems everybody knows and quotes on a daily basis. As a former drama student and eventual fan of Shakespeare, to that I say bulls**t,  so when watching think of this film as a work of fiction, and it's actually not bad, but also not great. So if the work was not done by Shakespeare, than who was this mysterious individual who was apparently one of the greatest British minds ever known. Well it was nobleman Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (Ifans), who actually wrote the works, those famous plays and moving poems, each and every one written by the Earl of Oxford. 

So, after a random and rather pretentious opening monologue from the wonderful Sir Derek Jacobi, and dramatic swooping aerial CGIs of 1600's London, we begin our story. Covering for the Earl we have a drunken, vain and self promoting actor called William Shakespeare (Spall), and when Romeo and Juliet manages to please audiences everything sets off on its rough road. Unfortunately Spall's appearances are few and far between, and the rest of the cast are forced to struggle, through dank street sets and dull sepia interiors, to bring any kind of life, to this dreary pointless story. The cast are good, it really is the best of the best of English actors, but for some reason it doesn't work, I suspect it's due to the fact that the story is beyond saving and therefore reflects poorly on the film and actors.

Going back and forth in the chronology of Elizabeth's relationship with the star-crossed earl to minimal effect, we see Jamie Campbell Bower as young Edward; he's the most indie of the movie's lippy male stars, and he seems more into striking a pose and being moody and emo-esque rather than performing. At one point Young Queen Elizabeth I (Richardson) pleasures him...orally, a perfect example that the movie's worst instincts are nearly its only entertaining ones. As the older, waning, fearful monarch, Richardson's mother Vanessa Redgrave adds some near-miraculous vulnerability in this context, bringing her brilliant character work to a pants film. I can't really say much, as the film doesn't warrant it, it falls at most hurdles, and wastes every drop of talent the actors involved have. It was a nice try, but a failed attempt.

Anonymous - Trailer