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Mixed or average reviews - based on 43 Critics What's this?

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6.2

Generally favorable reviews- based on 56 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: Set in the political snake-pit of Elizabethan England, Anonymous speculates on an issue that has for centuries intrigued academics and brilliant minds ranging from Mark Twain and Charles Dickens to Henry James and Sigmund Freud, namely: who was the author of the plays credited to WilliamSet in the political snake-pit of Elizabethan England, Anonymous speculates on an issue that has for centuries intrigued academics and brilliant minds ranging from Mark Twain and Charles Dickens to Henry James and Sigmund Freud, namely: who was the author of the plays credited to William Shakespeare? Experts have debated, books have been written, and scholars have devoted their lives to protecting or debunking theories surrounding the authorship of the most renowned works in English literature. Anonymous poses one possible answer, focusing on a time when cloak-and-dagger political intrigue, illicit romances in the Royal Court, and the schemes of greedy nobles hungry for the power of the throne were exposed in the most unlikely of places: the London stage. (Sony Pictures)

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 43
  2. Negative: 7 out of 43
  1. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Oct 26, 2011
    88
    Because of the ingenious screenplay by John Orloff, precise direction by Roland Emmerich and the casting of memorable British actors, you can walk into the theater as a blank slate, follow and enjoy the story, and leave convinced - if of nothing else - that Shakespeare was a figure of compelling interest.
  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: Betsy Sharkey
    Oct 27, 2011
    70
    William Shakespeare - whoever he was - I think would probably be at least a little amused by Anonymous. For amusing it is - along with bawdy, brazen, politically outrageous, plausible enough and occasionally graced with something close to Shakespearean cleverness in an absurdist sort of way.
  4. Reviewed by: Mary Pols
    Oct 27, 2011
    50
    Emmerich has turned his attention to the past. He and screenwriter John Orloff have embraced a kitchen sink's worth of 20th-century conspiracy theories about the provenance of Shakespeare's plays, each wilder than the last. Oliver Stone's "JFK" looks reasonable compared to this.
  5. Reviewed by: Amy Biancolli
    Oct 27, 2011
    50
    So if you don't mind, I'll just go back to believing that someone named Shakespeare (whoever he was) wrote Shakespeare's works. And I'll just go back to regarding them with awe.
  6. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Oct 26, 2011
    42
    Thumpingly silly yet self-serious period-piece what-if.
  7. Reviewed by: Judith Newmark
    Nov 6, 2011
    25
    The movie inspired theater critic Judith Newmark to write a sonnet in response.

See all 43 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 16
  2. Negative: 5 out of 16
  1. Jan 26, 2012
    9
    Such venom, such wailing and gnashing of teeth, the cheek of the director spinning a yarn about the Bard. You might have thought he suggestedSuch venom, such wailing and gnashing of teeth, the cheek of the director spinning a yarn about the Bard. You might have thought he suggested Jesus was an alien. Good grief, it's entertainment folks. It's actually a wonderful film, pulsing with Elizabethan life. Great acting, funny, wild, compelling and gripping. So it's not exactly true. It's NOT a documentary. One of my favorites of 2011. I'm appalled so many critics slammed it. Expand
  2. Dec 24, 2012
    8
    This is a film that has stayed within my personal top ten since its release. Watching again tonight for what is likely the fifth time... IThis is a film that has stayed within my personal top ten since its release. Watching again tonight for what is likely the fifth time... I lost count. Still love it as if it were the first time. NOTE: this is tale of a theory for an alternate history of Shakespeare himself. If your not willing to consider the theory as possible then you will not enjoy it as much. Keep an open mind and you will lose yourself in this wonderful tale. Oh and see how many Shakespearean references you can find in the protagonists life! Expand
  3. Feb 11, 2012
    7
    Anonymous a good drama thriller . The Shakespeare , Edward , Ben Jonson and those play in the theater part was freaking amazing and awesome .Anonymous a good drama thriller . The Shakespeare , Edward , Ben Jonson and those play in the theater part was freaking amazing and awesome . I myself don't believe that concept of Shakespeare being a fraud but the story was good . Now come the other side of the movie that Queen , Edward and all those royal drama was nothing but a crap . without those time jumping parts and Queen parts this movie could be A Great film but Roland Emmerich & John Orloff just ruined it . Shakespeare , Edward , Ben Jonson's acting was amazing and others were just as dull as their character . I gave it 7 out of ten 10 all because of those parts in theater and Shakespeare , Edward , Ben Jonson's part was so amazing and I loved it so freaking much. Expand
  4. Mar 6, 2012
    6
    My only complaint is that I found myself getting lost in the plot sometimes. But have no fear, all questions will be answered. In the end, itMy only complaint is that I found myself getting lost in the plot sometimes. But have no fear, all questions will be answered. In the end, it was quite enjoyable. Expand
  5. Nov 11, 2011
    5
    The basic premise: Shakespeare did not write his plays and poems, but this movie is anything but basic. The plot may be the most convolutedThe basic premise: Shakespeare did not write his plays and poems, but this movie is anything but basic. The plot may be the most convoluted and confusing I've ever seen. Perhaps if you have a thorough understanding of Tudor history, it might make more sense. The story jumps around in time and involves all manner of intrigue in Queen Elizabeth's court. On the positive side, it never drags and looks good. Expand
  6. 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 thanLong 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
  7. 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,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. Collapse

See all 16 User Reviews

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