"Anonymous," now open in theaters, is receiving mixed reviews from critics and moviegoers alike.
The Shakespeare "authorship"conspiracy, which has been tossed about for centuries, charges that the world's most read, taught and performed works of English literature are, in fact, not penned by William Shakespeare, portrayed by Rafe Spall.
Various theories and alternative authors have been mentioned, including the idea there was a group of individuals writing collectively under one pseudonym. Resurfacing over time, the conspiracy theorists each put forth their own surmised view, including the Oxfordian, which is this film's basis.
Shakespeare, known throughout history, is a twice-removed character from the proposed true playwright. In this fable it is Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, portrayed by Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill). From frolicking in bed with his (unbeknownst to him) mother, to unwillingly marrying a shrew, the earl is played with absolute cowardice, frustration and despair by Ifans. A nod at Oscar time for his performance would not surprise this critic.
Due to inner turmoil, religious constraints and political back stabbing, any involvement in plays is considered seedy making Edward, as a nobleman, unable to be awarded his due credit. The earl orders up-and-coming playwright, Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto) to "front" his work. Johnson is ousted by a quick-witted Shakespeare, an actor able to read but not write, who happens upon the scheme. Being paid well, both continue on with the fabrication until death.
Queen Elizabeth I. Vanessa Redgrave portrays superbly the aging monarch injecting both compassion and sadness into the character; traits not normally found within that role. Another actor in this movie who may receive Oscar attention.
Whether or not the true identity of the playwright is Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, a frightened royal family member, or a play-writing group of many, remains unclear due to lack of cohesive evidence.
Bottom Line: Take "Anonymous" with a grain of salt as you would with any conspiracy-theory film and it turns into, not an unveiling and accurate documentary, an enjoyable and entertaining flick.
Photos: Sony Pictures
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer, performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as Indy’s Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC, and follow her on Twitter @GottaGo and Facebook. Gotta Go is published in M magazine and the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, New Palestine Reporter, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.