Anonymous – Review by Susan Granger

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Who wrote Shakespeare’s plays? Could it have been an ordinary man like William, an itinerant actor whom some say was illiterate? Or was it a nobleman with Royal connections, like Sir Francis Bacon, poet/playwright Christopher Marlow, William Stanley, the 6th Earl of Derby, or, as this story postulates, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Over the years, controversy about who the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon really was has intrigued literati, including Charles Dickens, Henry James, Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, even Helen Keller.

“There is no evidence that Shakespeare actually wrote anything,” maintains screenwriter John Orloff. “In 400 years, there’s been nothing discovered that was actually written by William Shakespeare.”

German director Roland Emmerich explores Orloff’s outrageous conspiracy theory, focusing on Edward de Vere (Rhys Ifans) who was so well connected in court that he may have been young Queen Elizabeth’s lover, fathering her illegitimate child. Because of various political and social constraints imposed by his domineering Puritan guardian/father-in-law, William Cecil (David Thewlis), advisor to the Queen, de Vere pays a cheeky, narcissistic actor (Rafe Spall), to pretend he’s authored the provocative manuscripts which acerbically reflect the nefarious intrigue and blatant manipulations to maintain Tudor power within the English Court.

Best known for apocalyptic sagas (“Independence Day,” “2012”) Emmerich offers up lots of intriguing eye-candy in this opulent 16th century costume drama, set in London, as he clumsily – and confusingly – transitions back-and-forth in time with Joely Richardson as young Queen Elizabeth and her real-life mother, Vanessa Redgrave, playing the frustrated, aged Queen, who discovers to her horror from Cecil’s sinister son Robert (Edward Hogg) that one of her lovers might actually have been her grown son.

Two noted Shakespearan actors lend credence: Derek Jacobi delivers the prologue and epilogue, while Mark Rylance performs several excerpts on the Globe stage, including “Richard III.”

Problem is: Edward de Vere died in 1604, before “Macbeth,” “King Lear” and “The Tempest” were first produced.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Anonymous” is a speculative 7, a far-fetched, alternative-history curiosity, continuing the mystery.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.