User Score
6.2

Generally favorable reviews- based on 58 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 58
  2. Negative: 8 out of 58

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  1. Jan 20, 2012
    2
    Long ago, I had the privilege of hearing Jorge Luis Borges address the question of why people are so eager to claim that someone other than Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare's plays. Though he touched on the issue of class, Borges finally concluded that, by being an ordinary man who created a near-miraculous body of work, Shakespeare made the rest of us feel small. We don't want to feel small,Long ago, I had the privilege of hearing Jorge Luis Borges address the question of why people are so eager to claim that someone other than Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare's plays. Though he touched on the issue of class, Borges finally concluded that, by being an ordinary man who created a near-miraculous body of work, Shakespeare made the rest of us feel small. We don't want to feel small, so we seek to make Shakespeare's achievement less by proposing an author with a dazzling pedigree, along with singular access to power and the insight it brings. Borges could not have described Emmerich more exactly. The director, who boasts of having "never enjoyed Shakespeare," takes the playwright down a peg or two (thousand) by making him a greedy, illiterate buffoon who couldn't write the "e" in "Hamlet," much less 118,406 lines of verse and prose. The "real" playwright is perennial favorite Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, though, by the end of the film, Emmerich ennobles him so much beyond mere earldom that only God or Queen Elizabeth constitutes a more splendid candidate. Don't we all feel a bit less small? But "Anonymous" is a movie, not an article in "Shakespeare Quarterly," so we can forgive the hash it makes of politics, theatrical history, and the biographies of everyone from Ben Jonson to the Earl of Essex. We can forgive its perversity in skewing historical facts for no real dramatic purpose but seemingly just to slap the faces of Shakespeare-lovers. I can almost hear Emmerich saying, "I know it was Richard the Second that Essex's supporters commissioned in support of his rebellion, but I'll say it was Richard the THIRD. Ha ha ha! Take that, you pedants!" So, after we forgive all of these slights to the historical record, what are we left with? A slightly confusing story about the multi-generational political machinations of Elizabeth's Calvinist counsellors, the Cecils, and the deception, heartbreak, and misery they caused. Why does Oxford hire Shakespeare in the first place? Less because aristos shouldn't write plays than because he married a Cecil, and Calvinists abhor the theater. So, if not-entirely-clear Machiavellian deviousness on behalf of nascent English Puritanism floats your boat, then "Anonymous" is for you. Ditto if you're one of those folks who loves the so-called "authorship controversy" because you no longer have to sit quietly chewing your peas when someone brings up "Hamlet" (or the other 36 plays you haven't seen and/or read) at a dinner party. But if you're interested in Elizabethan theater, you might want to give "Anonymous" a a wide berth, despite its stellar cast and outstanding costume and set design. Something is deeply wrong when a film strives to produce authentic mud then grinds the greatest artists of an age into it.â Expand
  2. Nov 6, 2011
    0
    This is an abysmal mess. This movie ignores chronology to make its immensely convoluted idea seem even the remotest sense possible. It makes the same implausible and classist argument we've heard against Shakespeare's authorship for several decades, but not without insulting several prominent historical figures maliciously, for no real reason. All together this is another movie thatThis is an abysmal mess. This movie ignores chronology to make its immensely convoluted idea seem even the remotest sense possible. It makes the same implausible and classist argument we've heard against Shakespeare's authorship for several decades, but not without insulting several prominent historical figures maliciously, for no real reason. All together this is another movie that demonstrates Roland Emmerich's contempt for sense, historical fact and competent story telling. Expand
  3. Nov 8, 2011
    0
    The premise itself is a disgrace but at least the movie could have been shot and made competently. I don't think they did the premise justice, stressing again that I find the premise classist and inaccurate.
  4. May 29, 2012
    2
    This is one of the dumbest, ignorant, confusing messes I have ever witnessed. The idea that Shakespeare didn't write his plays in the first place is idiotic, false and insulting, and the misuse of historical characters is a slap in the face to anyone who has studied the smallest fraction of it. The characters are wrong, the events never happened, and the placement of the Globe and TowerThis is one of the dumbest, ignorant, confusing messes I have ever witnessed. The idea that Shakespeare didn't write his plays in the first place is idiotic, false and insulting, and the misuse of historical characters is a slap in the face to anyone who has studied the smallest fraction of it. The characters are wrong, the events never happened, and the placement of the Globe and Tower are nowhere near where they would have been circa 1600. The only saving grace in this film is Rhys Ifans performance and the neat cinematography, but that is far outweighed by this work of fiction. Collapse
  5. Nov 11, 2011
    3
    A wonderful looking film with a wonderful cast. But the screenplay--which attempts to jump about in space and time in a Tarantinoesque fashion--never works. And I mean that in almost every possible way. I don't remember a movie in recent memory so devoid of authentic dramatic tension. At points you can almost see Orloff and Emmerich checking off bullet points from their lists of pointsA wonderful looking film with a wonderful cast. But the screenplay--which attempts to jump about in space and time in a Tarantinoesque fashion--never works. And I mean that in almost every possible way. I don't remember a movie in recent memory so devoid of authentic dramatic tension. At points you can almost see Orloff and Emmerich checking off bullet points from their lists of points that the film is trying to demonstrate. Ignoring the Hick versus the Literate Earl debate for the moment, the writer the film really slanders and does a disservice to is Ben Jonson. According to the film Ben Jonson (and Kit Marlowe, Dekker, and Nash--all of Shakespeare's brilliant contemporaries) can't write a syllable that compares to Shakespeare. Certainly untrue as anyone who's read any Elizabethan and Jacobean poetry or drama knows. In fact, there are so many good dramatists and poets during Shakespeare's day the question shouldn't be Why is Shakespeare so great? Rather, it should be how did such an age produce and nurture so many good poets and playwrights?

    Finally, the figure of Oxford is meant to be somewhat tragic but the film's silly conceits and stereotypes run roughshod over our sympathy for him The films trots out the same hackneyed ideas about writers that have been around since the beginning of drama: the great writer suffers in isolation, is unappreciated by all around him, and must be willing to sacrifice all to his art. Uh-huh. And Mozart wrote his symphonies on a billiard table in the midst of a billiard match. But a fine film from a technical angle...
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Metascore
50

Mixed or average reviews - based on 43 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 43
  2. Negative: 7 out of 43
  1. Reviewed by: Judith Newmark
    Nov 6, 2011
    25
    The movie inspired theater critic Judith Newmark to write a sonnet in response.
  2. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Nov 3, 2011
    75
    Anonymous is fun – if you take the anti-Shakespearean tale as events set in an unreal, alternate universe.
  3. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Oct 31, 2011
    75
    Anonymous is well-paced and never threatens to bore or become too scholarly.