Posted: February 20, 2012 by Micah in Movie Reviews
Tags: , ,

Recently me and my fiancé had another one of those epic debates that define a relationship. A lifetime. An evening. That debate was (of course) “what movie should we watch?” After going back and forth for a few minutes and perusing the movies currently available on Redbox we thought “Hey, isn’t there some kind of Shakespeare movie out?” and what do you know there was! We decided to watch “Anonymous” a movie about whether Shakespeare did or did not write the famous plays that he is famous for famously writing.

Micah Reviews: Anonymous.

The Plot:

Oh I get it... his back is turned... cause he's Anonymous... clever.

Here’s how this movie starts. Narrator Derek Jacobi comes on stage and says stuff. Now Derek Jacobi is a brilliant actor and is one of those guys who has been old for his entire life. I actually am pretty sure he was willed into existence by the Ghost of Will Shakespeare to spread his works among the masses. If Derek Jacobi appeared to me in a dream and told me I was a Canadian Beaver with daddy issues, I would no doubt be outside moments later angrily chewing on tree bark. But I digress:

After an awesome opening narration by the aforementioned Captain Jacobi, the movie cuts back to Victorian England where we are introduced to erstwhile writer Ben Johnson.  Mr. Johnson is arrested and the following scene takes place.

Jailor person: “Tell me stuff” (it should be noted I’m paraphrasing here.)

Ben Johnson: “I don’t know stuff.”

Jailor person: “Yes you do!” Jailor person punches Ben Johnson repeatedly.

Ben Johnson: “I still don’t know that stuff.”

Jailor person: “Tell me that stuff or I will take this TV and make you watch old re-runs of One Tree Hill!!”

Ben Johnson: “Fine fine. There was stuff but now there isn’t stuff.”

Jailor person: “Are you lying to me?”

Ben Johnson: “Why would I lie to you.”

Jailor person: “Ah that seems like a valid argument. Very well, Mr. Johnson sir, I bow to your iron clad logic and will now let you free because obviously you’re under no duress to get me to stop beating the ever loving carp out of you. Have a nice day.”

And this leads us to one of my great movie pet peeves. When someone who is being tortured uses the argument “Why would I lie to you?” The obvious answer is “BECAUSE YOU’RE BEING TORTURED!!!” “Because if I believe your lie I may stop stabbing you with this rusty spork. That’s why you would lie!” Anyway though…

From here on out, the real story focuses on a man named Earl Grey (Editor’s Note: The Earl of Oxford). Earl Grey is a playwright as well only he can’t write plays because his adopted father says so. But does that stop Earl? Does Grey give in to the wishes of his tyrannical stepped father as though he were some sort of stepped ladder looming over his stepped future?? Well yes. Yes he does.

But does this end the movie? Of course not. First we have to meet Earl Grey’s other friends Earl Beige, and Earl Blond. Earl Blond wants to succeed the Queen as the Earl King… I mean England’s King but unfortunately the Hunchback of Notre Dame is in his way. (Editor’s Note: The main villain does have a hunch. Notre Dame appears nowhere in this movie).

The three Earl's meet for a nice cup of tea and a heated discussion about Earl Puce.

Anyway Earl Grey writes plays to reach out to the Queen, through means that are never totally clear, but he can’t actually attribute his name to them. So he gives them to Ben Johnson who in turn gives them to some actor guy named William Shakespeare.

And that’s the basic plot. There are about 4 million side plots some of which may or may not involve Ben Johnson writing more plays, a midget being horribly exploited, and some dude stabbing some other dude in the leg, but none of these things made enough sense for me to really invest myself in them.

The positives:

Anonymous is a very well acted movie with a strong cast, led by Rhys Ifans (who plays Earl Grey and will soon be famous for portraying the main villain in the new Spiderman). Ifans actually has been doing great work in the acting field for the past couple years to almost no acclaim.

The ever awesome, and almost criminally unappreciated, Derek Jacobi also makes a very cool appearance. And another special note really needs to be given to David Thewlis (Professor Lupin from Harry Potter) who plays an old man and who I literally did not believe was in the movie. It’s brilliant, brilliant work.

The Negatrons:

One of the main things you have to do when you’re doing one of these sort of “Did he really?” typed movies is make your “Did he really?” mildly plausible. Anonymous never does that. Not for one moment over the course of this film did it make me vaguely doubt whether or not Shakespeare wrote his plays. It tries to set up this whole big elaborate plot… thing but in the end it’s like what would happen if someone blindfolded a dyslexic spider and asked him to write the Ten Commandments. Sure it looks complicated and might even occasionally surprise you but it certainly doesn’t make any sense at all.

Oh another negative was the movie's portrayal of Queen Elizabeth who was made alternately to look like a complete floozy or a crazed old woman with image issues.

Some of the side plots (including several really weird “people cheating on their wives” things) aren’t only nonsensical, but actually take away from the plot. It might be impressive if I can train a monkey to crash a cymbal and keep time with Beethoven’s 4th but it certainly doesn’t enhance Beethoven. A lot of the side plots in this movie amount to monkeys crashing cymbals and detract from, rather than add too, the story.

In Conclusion:

In the end good acting and a decent original idea can’t make up for a script that is far too easily distracted and not nearly believable enough. I can see where a movie like this would be interesting but in the end none of the ideas are played out well enough.

I give it 2 Earl Grey’s out of 5.

  1. Mom says:

    You are an amazing writer dispite your meager schooling!!!! I just love to read your stuff.

    • Micah says:

      Oh it wasn’t that I had meager schooling! Just a meager attention span! I had a great English teacher but when paired with the attention span of a Spaniel hopped up on Dayquil not much of it really stuck! Still though I owe what skills I have to you!

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