Friday, 4 November 2011


I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fan of Roland Emmerich, the director of such classic films as Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, The Patriot, 10,000 BC and 2012, almost all of which get a mug down from me. When I saw that Emmerich had directed Anonymous, my interest in the film vanished instantly. Luckily for me, Roger Ebert gave the film ***+. I keep a list of all films getting ***+ or more from Roger and try to watch as many as possible, only rarely regretting it.

So I went to see Anonymous last night, knowing that most critics were less than impressed. At the end of the film, I couldn’t stop shaking my head. Roland Emmerich? Seriously? I suspect some nobleman didn’t want his name attached to the film (for whatever reason) and asked Emmerich to stand in. And you critics: what’s your problem? **+-star average? Did you just see Emmerich’s name and assign the required rating? Or are you really so worried about whether the plot is believable that you would bad-mouth an otherwise brilliant film just because it suggests William Shakespeare was a buffoon and could not possibly have written the plays attributed to him?

You know my opinion of the film by now. I thought Anonymous was absolutely delightful (in a dark and twisted sort of way) and was enthralled from the opening scene (with Derek Jacobi the perfect person to introduce such a film) to the surprise ending, which actually surprised me. I could find no fault with Emmerich’s direction, though it was no doubt aided by John Orloff’s superb screenplay. The set design and cinematography made me believe I was in Elizabethan London. The music was solid without being overwhelming. And as for the acting? Niccol should have been looking for his young actors in the UK (for In Time). The acting was stellar, with a particularly outstanding performance by Rhys Ifans (who was great in Greenberg and Mr. Nobody) as the earl of Oxford who lies at the heart of this bizarre tale. David Thewlis and Edward Hogg were also wonderful as the father-son bad guys (and ‘oh-joy’ they were not killed off at the end). Joely Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave were just right as the young and old Queen Elizabeth. And then there were all those young actors, largely unknown to me, who seemed perfectly-cast.

Did I find the notion that William Shakespeare had nothing to do with his plays even remotely convincing? Well, I like to keep an open mind about such things and I found the plot, as presented, quite convincing. Whether or not it had the slightest basis in fact or was utterly preposterous is beside the point for me, because the film was intelligent, entertaining and thought-provoking and I don’t really care WHO wrote the plays, just that they survived that troubling era.

So ***+ or ****, that is the question. Whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of potential disrespect by going out on a limb and granting **** when none have been so generous before me or to admit that Anonymous did not quite have the pop and WOW factor required for **** and grant it the safer ***+. Am I a coward? Nay, I shall be bold and lift my mug high (though what it contains I dare not say). **** it is.

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