Sunday, March 11, 2012

Anonymous - DVD Review

Starring Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Sebastian Armesto, Rafe Spall, David Thewlis, Joely Richardson, Edward Hogg, Xavier Samuel, Jamie Campbell Bower and Derek Jacobi.
Directed by Roland Emmerich.


Roland Emmerich may be known for big-budget disaster flicks (The Day After Tomorrow, 2012) but when given the chance to tell a smaller story, he's actually pretty good.  This is no trashing of a genre, like, say, Paul WS Anderson's Three Musketeers, but an interesting "What if?" mystery.

This movie posits that Shakespeare didn't write a single word, that all of the plays were written by the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans).  The Earl is a poet at heart, but his station doesn't permit him to be open about his works.  The plan had been for Ben Jonsen (Sebastian Armesto) to claim authorship, but the ambitious actor William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) seizes the opportunity, and the rest is alternate history.

One of my favorite touches was having Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth, and Joely Richardson (her real-life daughter) play her in flashbacks.  I must also give credit to Ifans.  He's usually comic relief (Notting Hill, Little Nicky) or creepy villain (Hannibal), but his Earl has depth and soul.

The movie's careful not to take it itself too seriously.  It is, after all, play fast and loose with history.  At times it's like one of those paperback romance novels, but the settings and costumes are lush, and it's engaging from beginning to end.

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