Roland Emmerich. I don't really have a problem with Emmerich. His movies can be silly and ridiculous, but I usually find myself entertained by them.
Anonymous is a movie that runs with the theory that Shakespeare didn't write the plays and poems he's credited with. While I'm aware that these theories exist, I don't have a dog in that fight. I really don't care one way or another. I've read some Shakespeare in school and didn't hate it, but what I really care about is if this movie is any good.
The basic story is that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, played by Rhys Ifans, is a aristocrat that because of his station is basically forbidden to write or publish his work. According to Queen Elizabeth's advisors, writing and creative work is the devil's work and not honorable. The Queen herself though seems to enjoy the arts, so I'm not sure why this is an issue. She's the Queen. Tell your advisers to shut it!
The Queen is getting up there in age and soon she will be naming her successor and there are different factions who are scheming to get their guy to be named King. The Earl of Oxford sees how words and plays effect the viewers and then sees this as a way to cause political change and ultimately affect who Elizabeth will name as her successor. He contacts a writer, Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto), to publish his works under Johnson's name. However, Johnson is reluctant to do this as he's also a writer that wants to succeed on his own merits. An opportunistic William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) decides to take credit for the work once he sees the crowd's response to one of the plays after it is peformed.
That's about as far as I can get into it without spoiling too much of the plot. Anonymous is not a great movie. At times, I thought Anonymous was kind of all over the place. It relies heavily on flashbacks in time to tell the story and I thought it jumped around in time too much. Just when I'd get into a particular sequence, they change times on me again and it would kind of take me out of it.
The look of the movie is great! You can see where the budget went into making the customes and sets look real and the use of CG for the landscapes It's done really well and you never feel like you're looking at too much CG or special effects.
The best thing about Anonymous are the performances, Rhys Ifans kills it here as the 'Earl of Oxford'. This is his film as far as I'm concerned. Vanessa Redgrage plays Queen Elizabeth I in the 'current' time and she walks that line of regality and senility. One interesting thing they did with the casting was that they had Redgrave's real life daughter, Joely Richardson, play her younger self in the flashback sequences. I thought it was a cool casting choice and Richardson was sexy as hell.. Sebastian Armesto was good as 'Ben Johnson' and I didn't even recognize David Thewlis as 'William Cecil'.
John Orloff wrote Anonymous, and I think this would have been a better movie with a more experienced writer. There are so many characters and names that it's really hard to keep it all straight. There's too much going on at times. The movie is a little long due to all of the flashbacks and plot threads and I don't see how they could have made it shorter without leaving you hanging in several areas or not cleaning up certain threads.
If you really love Shakespeare, this movie might really piss you off as they portray him as basically an illiterate baffoon. It's also not very historically accurrate, so that may bug the history buffs. I'm not a history buff myself, but I know enough about movies like this to know that there are always multiple inaccuracies when it comes to historical drama. That just goes with the territory. Also, considering the whole Shakespeare authorship thing is a theory, you'd have to treat this as a work of fiction. I would call it an historical soap opera, along the line of something like The Tudors.
Again, I don't really have an issue with Roland Emmerich. He's done some really bad movies (10,000 BC, Godzilla), movies I've really liked (The Patriot) and then movies that are dumb fun in the guilty pleasure category (2012, Independence Day). I think this is his second best film behind The Patriot and I guess you can give him credit for trying something somewhat serious again.
I didn't think Anonymous was a bad movie. I didn't feel bored or like I was wasting my time through it. At times I found it very entertaining, albeit a little silly. It's well acted and I really liked the look of the movie overall. However, if you don't see this in the theater, I don't think you'll be missing out at all. I think this is something that's better suited for a rental.