Have you heard that sound lately? The one that sounds like thousands of people stomping on bubble wrap fifty feet beneath the earth’s surface? I’ve been wondering what it was […]
Have you heard that sound lately? The one that sounds like thousands of people stomping on bubble wrap fifty feet beneath the earth’s surface? I’ve been wondering what it was too, so I did a little investigation. Turns out it isn’t anything serious, just the blood vessels popping in the foreheads of History and English majors around the world at the release of Roland ‘Independence Day’ Emmerich’s latest film, Anonymous.
I’m not going to lie to you, I was disappointed by Anonymous. Roland ‘Godzilla (1998)’ Emmerich has directed some of my most hated films. I was expecting a masterpiece of horrible filmmaking. I wanted a bloodbath of hacked up dialogue and stunted characters. I wanted to laugh and spit and scream at the screen like the Globe’s groundlings at a particularly shabby piece of theatre. I wanted Shakespeare to punch Ben Jonson in the face and say ‘Welcome to Earth!’
What did I get? A film that, despite (or maybe because of) rock-bottom expectations and hostile reviews, was sort of okay.
Let me get something out of the way first: the Oxfordian theory is stupid. Any theory that says Shakespeare did not write his plays is stupid. No one with any knowledge of history, Shakespeare, or basic human nature could or should be duped into believing it. Yet most of the negative reviews do not condemn the film based on any inherent flaws, but just for having the gall to make a film based off of such a theory.
So what about the movie itself? It’s not really bad! The sets are luscious and the costumes are really spectacular, it would be worth watching on mute if the sound of history being butchered is too distracting. Surprisingly, it’s not shot in that annoying, ‘look at me I’m a historical drama’ style, so good on you Roland ‘2012’ Emmerich.
There are even several rather strong performances. Rhys Ifans plays the Earl of Oxford as an honest, remarkable man disappointed by his life, and by the finale I felt a little bad that all of those plays would never bear his name (and then slapped myself because the real Earl of Oxford obviously never wrote them). Rafe Spall clearly has tons of fun as a drunken, whore-mongering Shakespeare. Who honestly doesn’t get a little excited by the phrase ‘whore-mongering Shakespeare’? David Thewlis and Edward Hogg make a good father-son villain duo as William and Robert Cecil, and they end up bringing some depth and complexity to their stereotypical ‘evil adviser’ roles. Also, Trystan Gravelle plays Christopher Marlowe, and he is so fucking hilarious as an over-the-top scheming creep that I was sad to witness his predictable and inevitable death.
If you’re willing to leave your concern for historical accuracy at the door, the plot is a fun if unsubtle Elizabethan/Jacobean romp, even if it’s a little too much tell and not enough show. Overall, a surprisingly watchable but weird piece of alternate history. Definitely fun if you’re willing to keep your pedantry on a leash out front.
Written by Mark Kersteen, standing-room-only writer
Photo © Sony Pictures Digital Inc.