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Popcorn Rating



Movie Info


Rated PG-13 for some violence and sexual content.




Nov. 4, 2011


Rhys Ifan, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis, Rafe Spall, Derek Jacobi


Roland Emmerich


Sony Pictures

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By Hannah Goodwyn Senior Producer - “Was Shakespeare a fraud?” That’s the tagline that pulls you into director Roland Emmerich’s new film, Anonymous. This cinematic tale looks at the often debated real-life conspiracy theory that William Shakespeare, England’s beloved poet and playwright, never wrote a word.

The who’s who of British stage and film actors, including Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, Rhys Ifans, David Thewlis, and Derek Jacobi, occupy these historic and controversial roles, ones sure to get Shakespeare fans reeling.

Unfortunately for morally-minded moviegoers, Anonymous contains explicit sexual content and violence. Rated PG-13, the offenses aren’t apparently R-worthy; however, it comes close with scenes depicting adulterous affairs and prostitution.


Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford, is a born writer, but his station prevents him from publishing his plays. Desperate to have them acted for London’s masses, the Earl elicits the help of a struggling writer named Ben Jonson. The plays are a success and when the crowd calls for the writer to show his face, actor Will Shakespeare steps forward claiming that role. These stage comedies and tragedies are matched against tangled court liaisons and a troubled monarchy ruled by Queen Elizabeth I. With chaos unfolding, can the De Vere’s house, the crown, and the now booming theater scene be saved?


Director Roland Emmerich is known for his over-the-top films, some of his most known being the doomsday/disaster movies, 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. It’s that grandeur that makes Anonymous fascinating. The costumes, the music, the set design, the acting, and the script all work seamlessly together, transporting you to the dramatic court of Queen Elizabeth I and the controversy of Shakespeare’s theater.

Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave and actress/real-life daughter Joely Richardson act in the role of Queen Elizabeth I (the elder and the younger, respectively). David Thewlis serves as the queen’s advisor. Derek Jacobi builds the story in the beginning and ending prologues. Rafe Spall embodies Emmerich’s take on Shakespeare, an illiterate actor who cares for nothing but money, women, and status. Each cast member delivers their lines in true fashion, but it’s Rhys Ifans as the Earl of Oxford who gets the ovation. His dramatic interpretation of this completely beguiling figure is noteworthy. It will surprise many moviegoers to recognize him from his role as Hugh Grant’s vulgar roommate from Notting Hill. Ifans solidifes his acting prowess to an American audience in this complicated character. An Oscar nomination should be in his future.

The drama in Anonymous is absolutely Shakespearean-esque. Scandal, intrigue, and tragedy fill the script’s pages, and Emmerich pulls it all together on screen. The film covers a lot of characters, back stories, and histories, yet doesn’t get convoluted. That’s a testament to the talent of writer John Orloff (Band of Brothers, A Mighty Heart). Emmerich’s design team (set and costume) and his photography crew also should be commended for building 16th century London and shooting it so well.

Unfortunately, Anonymous loses some of its appeal because of offensive content. It garners a lower than excellent rating for this reason. The sexual content alone warrants strong caution. Granted, the story calls for these "encounters" to set up the nature of key relationships. However, a few of these scenes were needless, specifically the prostitute, bare-rear scene. With a tweak here and there, the film could have been just as powerful and easier to watch.


Taking notes from the Bard's playbook, cast and crew entertainingly spotlight a moment in history that's in question. Who wrote Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night's Dream? Though Emmerich's film doesn't offer a concrete answer, it will no doubt bait classic literature and English history fans. The reach beyond that circle into the action or romantic comedy crowd is uncertain.

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Hannah GoodwynHannah Goodwyn serves as the Entertainment producer for For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.

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