Verdict: 2 / 5
Anonymous is far too long-winded and indulgent. The speculations made were so far fetched that it would have been best to rename the characters and promote it as a complete work of fiction. Though watchable it felt like it was trying to capture the essence of ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and falls far far short of it.
PLOT: The story sets us up to believe that Shakespeare was the Duke of Oxford writing anonymously via a mediocre playwright and in a non-linear way tells his story as the young and old duke (which revolves mainly around his struggle with his family to write and be published, his involvement with the queen, his political intrigues, his scandals and his journey to having his plays performed and remembered).
Anonymous weaves an elaborate web of political intrigue and scandal around the theory of the life of Shakespeare and who he may really have been. It could perhaps had been better received had they not tried to alter history by weaving these tales around real historic figures. Queen Elizabeth would turn around in her grave if she knew half of what they have added to her legacy. It is an adequate work of fiction but hardly something I would add to the historic archives or my movie shelf. I found such speculations and additions to what we already know to be distracting at best as it meddles greatly with ones ability to suspend disbelief and enjoy the movie.
The cast put in commendable performances and Anonymous certainly went all out as far as production design and costumes were concerned. Despite the grandness of it it fails to draw you in the way ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love’ did having lacked just that special aesthetic element needed to make it art. Also the story was not quite captivating enough to justify the length of the movie, i.e. if you have a movie longer than an hour and a half you’d best make sure it’s got the epic nature and plot of the Titanic or Lord of the rings if you don’t want to lose your audience – even then it is a gamble.
Another problem is that this kind of movie would appeal to the more refined and educated viewer however those are exactly the kind of people who will have enough knowledge to find the elaborate tales and additions to history hindersome. For example the movie would have you believe that the Duke of Oxford was a supressed writer who wrote anonymously via a playwright, that he had an affair with the queen (but was also unknowingly to him the illegitimate first born son of the queen) and had an illegitimate child with her, i.e. the Duke of Southhampton (the son/grandson of the queen). There are also bits of treason and stuff like that.
Taking everything into account it was not a bad movie just lacking in greatness. There was enough to look at and follow in terms of plot and production design if you managed to get through the sheer length and complicated intrigues.