Anonymous Movie Review


How does one really write a review of a movie she neither loved nor hated? I have to be honest, I’ve been putting off this review because I have such lukewarm feelings towards Anonymous. But in the interest of putting pen to paper, I suppose I’ll start with a brief synopsis. In this fictionalized view on Shakespeare’s stories, the theory we are supposed to believe for approximately two hours of our lives is that William Shakespeare was nothing but a name for the esteemed Earl of Oxford. The Earl could never put out his words of genius with his own name because it would be a disgrace to his reputation and his family if he would stoop so low as to become a writer.

What bothers me most about this film is that it is not particularly memorable. Every aspect, excluding the story for a moment, is rather mediocre; from the cinematography to the wardrobe. I often found myself upset that my eyes weren’t stimulated by vivid colors or multiple textures of clothing. I believe that this film was allowed to go an extra step into creating a larger-than life universe because it took place in the Elizabethan period where the world was nothing like life as we know it today; everything was extravagant. Yet it didn’t. The actors weren’t particularly memorable either.

The only performance I remember well was that of Jamie Campbell Bower as the young Earl which inspired what we know today as the brilliant works of Shakespeare. I’ve had personal issues with Bower because he was recently cast as Jace Wayland in the upcoming adaptation of The Mortal Instruments, where I’ve had my reservations about how well suited he may or may not be for the roll. This film definitely helped begin to turn my opinion around about the man. However, even if your only reason for seeing this film is to see Bower, you may be gravely disappointed because he is not in as much of the film as he probably should have been.

This brings me to the most frustrating part of the movie: this film is the Shakespearean Inception. It is a play within a movie. But not once does the film utilize the fact that it is essentially supposed to be a play; it just shows a man introducing the story at the beginning of the film on a stage, and then the actor playing “Anonymous” (who serves much less of a purpose than I believe he is supposed to, the movie is named after him, after all!) runs on stage, and the play suddenly transforms into a film. I thought the movie would have been far more interesting if all the events unraveled through something more like a stage.

When the film gets to the point that you’re watching a flashback within a flashback within a place within a movie, you find yourself not lost in a movie anymore, but lost and confused in the hell that I can only refer to as “play-ception.” For me, this did nothing but create confusion in a story that is already a bit of a challenge to follow along with. There are so many flashbacks that it felt like it was a story about twice as many characters because they aren’t introduced as younger versions of the characters whose lives we’ve been following. You’re on your own, and trust me, it can be a bumpy ride, especially if you allow your mind to wander for even just two minutes.

I do have to admit that a lot of the story went over my head because I don’t have a passion for the history this film covered. I think that those who know much more about the theory that Shakespeare was nothing more than a name have the potential to enjoy this film much more than I did. People have created an uproar over it, taking out Shakespeare’s name in signs in his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon in protest of this movie that accuses him of being a fraud. I may not know that much about Shakespeare, but I do agree that this film puts out a terrible image of the Bard to remember: a bumbling buffoon who really couldn’t function on a basic level.

I believe that people who have a vested interest in Shakespeare’s history and this conspiracy theory have a chance at enjoying this film. However, if you’re like me and only have a limited amount of knowledge about Shakespeare’s life, then I recommend you stay away and read the Bard’s phenomenal plays, because I think we can all agree that no matter who wrote these stories, they are classic tales that will life on forever.

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  1. I am taking my Shakespeare students to see this film. Would it be alright to ask them to post a response to your review after they’ve seen it?