Enunciate, enunciate! Overacted? Yes. Bombastic? For sure. Effective? In parts. If the jarring knowledge of Roland Emmerich (director of such understated literary works as Independence Day & 2012…among many others) tackling Shakespeare hasn’t been enough to stop you getting past the door, then you’ll likely notice the, at times, panto-like performances of the actors and their over the top received pronunciation. Whether this is enough to sending you running for the hills depends on your willingness to go along for the ride. Enunciate!!
It has been one of those fringe beliefs since about the mid 19th century – that Shakespeare’s humble background simply wouldn’t lend itself to such works of high art, poeticism and knowledge of royal court. You might call it the Dan Brown school of arguable conspiracy. One of the alternative candidates for authorship is Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans). He is our protagonist. Cultured and from a revered family, his love of writing stifled by his adoptive, puritanical guardian, the slippery William Cecil (David Thewlis). The young Earl makes an early impression on a mature Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave – very good) his love of verse chiming with hers. This will not do however; poetry doesn’t wash it with the puritans, not respectable enough. Cue much in the way of machinations involving The Cecils, DeVere, Elizabeth, incest, misdirection and assumed identity.
After a while it all starts to gel into one seamless mush and we barely distinguish the unintentional parody from the real thing. Rafe Spell has fun with the actual William Shakespeare character – portrayed as a conniving, vain, opportunistic actor. The sets are impressively immersive and, despite it being done many times before, the Shakespearian excerpts do pack their punch. But it’s nothing if not all terribly predictable and jaded. Right down to those Shakespearian interludes. Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, Henry VIII – offer something new in their performance for Gods Sake! 15 years after Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet nothing has yet to match that film’s invigorating verve for the works of the bard.
The emotion is laid on thick and fast in Anonymous but feels hollow. The sense of fun is there but drowned out by it’s own preposterous seriousness. Snobs will undoubtedly have a field day with a movie like this. Perhaps this reviewer is one of them. But I will say this, Roland Emmerich knows how to make bad movies and carry them off with aplomb. Enjoyable, if you must…