Judd: There’s always been grumblings that Shakespeare didn’t actually write his works. Now, let’s suppose that the supposed “real” Shakespeare was a ninny on the Monty Python level of ninnies. Let us also suppose that the Edward De Vere Earl of Oxford, who was orphaned and raised by William Cecil, a Rasputin type counselor to Queen Elizabeth I really wrote Shakespeare’s canon. William Cecil has a humpback son and a frumpy daughter and they all think the arts are the devil’s work; they try to keep Edward from writing. Edward chooses an unknown playwright, Ben Johnson, to produce his shows for him. Ben is reluctant, so Shakespeare swoops in and takes credit. De Vere uses his writing to sway public opinion against the Cecils. Ben Johnson conspires with the Cecils against De Vere and Shakespeare. Now throw in illegitimate children, incest, and an illiterate than can read, and you have a story that should open with a woman yelling, “Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman!” over the opening credits.
Swanner: You can’t just give it all away like that. First of all, if you’ve ever read up on the royals this doesn’t sound to far fetched but I understand your thoughts. Still, growing up in the Midwest I would think you were used to some of these elements. Didn’t you grow up on a dirt road? The movie is pretty much your typical period piece. Beautiful costumes, muddy roads, political intrigue and sword fights. I liked that fact we were talking about plays and not about wars or chicks for a change.
Judd: I can and did give it all away because I don’t want our readers wasting more than two hours on an unforgivably boring cloak and dagger melodrama. And nice try at trying to tie in my Midwestern roots with incest. B- for effort. Director Roland Emmrich is better known for his disaster films and Anonymous is catastrophic. Instead of relying on engaging characters and story to build interest, he uses a constantly shifting timeframe to build intrigue. Forcing the audience to figure out who is who is not the same as them taking interest.
Swanner: I will admit that bouncing back 40 years was a bit confusing, but I still thought it was an enjoyable film. All the performances were all wonderful, especially Rhys Ifans and Vanessa Redgrave. John Orloff’s script was good, but as I mentioned it was a bit confusing at time and that may have been the editing. You have to give Roland Emmrich props for not destroying the world or having aliens be the real author of King Lear.
Judd: I thought the performances were a bit hammy, especially Rafe Spall as Shakespeare. He was one step away from Eric Idle. The movie felt like three concepts loosely tied together by the Shakespeare plot. Shakespeare could have been taken completely out of the film and it wouldn’t have changed much. In fact, I would have preferred his character were out of the movie, as I could have done without the 20 minute montage of his “Greatest Hits.” The target audience of this claptrap isn’t going to recognize the works anyhow.
Swanner: I’m glad I saw the movie. I think you need to get off that high horse of yours and just settle down. I also thought Spall was a bit much but he was cute enough for me to forgive. I also think they wanted him to be a bit of a villain so the more obnoxious the better. It’s not a great movie but I liked the concept. If you’re a fan of costume dramas I would suggest this film. If you’re all bitched out by Shakespeare to begin with then why would you even consider seeing this movie in the first place?
Judd: No stars