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Running Time:
2 hours, 9 minutes

Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.

Rating Explanation:
for some violence and sexual content

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
If you don't mind the many inaccuracies, jumbled chronology and and often clunky dialogue, this is an often entertaining costume romp.

Additional Info:
Rhys Ifans ... Earl of Oxford
Vanessa Redgrave ... Queen Elizabeth I
Rafe Spall ... Shakespeare
David Thewlis ... William Cecil
Edward Hogg ... Robert Cecil
Sam Reid ... Earl of Essex
Sebastian Armesto ... Ben Jonson
Xavier Samuel ... Earl of Southampton

The film deals with the oft questioned premise that the plays attributed to Shakespeare were actually written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. The plot concerns de Vere (Rhys Ifans) and his very close relationship with Queen Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave) and uses the stage to make a political statement involving his erstwhile guardian William Cecil (David Thewlis) and his son Robert (Edward Hogg), who are maneuvering to secure the succession to the English throne of James Stuart, king of Scotland (James Clyde), against the claims of the young Earl of Essex (Sam Reid), presumed to be one of the queen’s bastard offspring. The problem is that this scenario involves a lot of chronological reshuffling, character assassination, implausibility and downright falsehood.

Anonymous doesn’t merely turn Will Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) into a buffoon, and an illiterate one at that; it also characterizes him as a money-hungry scoundrel, willing to resort to blackmail and even murder while accepting public acclamation he doesn’t deserve. By contrast, de Vere is portrayed as a high-minded, emotionally controlled man whose genius is constrained by the fact that he can't use his own name. So he has playwright Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto) let the plays be performed as if they were his, though by accident they come to be attributed to a hack actor named Will Shakespeare.

The film really falls apart when it moves into the corridors of political power. One can challenge the depiction of the aged Elizabeth as a querulous, emotionally distraught old woman controlled by her advisors, but Vanessa Redgrave gives her such touching fragility that you’re willing to go along, particularly since she matches up so well with her real daughter Joely Richardson as the young queen. And though the characterization of William Cecil as a Puritan hard-liner is off-base, David Thewlis plays him with just the right amount of gravity.

But when one gets to the machinations of William and his son Robert to secure the succession for James Stuart, supposedly against Elizabeth’s will, the plot becomes so chaotic and the revelations so over-the-top that they bend both historical credibility and dramatic persuasiveness well past the breaking point. An impressive physical production directed by Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day") has been lavished on this bunk, but, not even a book-ending appearance by Derek Jacobi to introduce and sum up its premise can make Anonymous anything but what it is; a lavish but historically unconvincing and dramatically muddled presentation of a theory about the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays.


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