Its badness relative to its goodness discomfits me less than the coming onslaught of semester’s end;
The blizzard of Anonymous’s plots twists is of no interest;
Nor the ways in which narrative itself becomes lost in a white rush it both makes and is made from, stumbling through deep banks of its own inconsistencies;
Ill-timed and unmarked flashbacks;
Triple helpings of indistinguishable characters bearing the title “Earl;”
I don’t care that Anonymous stirred the tepid soup of its political intrigue with a splinter of moldy spoon;
That moments of drama sputtered up like stray sexual urges from Maggie Smith’s wrinkly loins; that its themes received more serious treatment in the Elizabeth movies, or Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet; nothing perturbs me about Anonymous because people spoke in complete sentences in it;
And some of those sentences were Shakespeare’s;
And the actor playing Shakespeare—
The fake one, the one actually named Shakespeare, not the writer, the actor, which Shakespeare also was, until he became a writer, which he doesn’t in this movie, because he can’t, because Shakespeare is the name of a nobleman, who is actually Shakespeare, though somehow Queen Elizabeth declares that “history will never know his name,” which, how is that possible, the point is it’s not! Complete sentences are the point—
Is a fine actor, and the name “Ben Jonson” is uttered at least 100x, and when was the last time a Cavalier Poet made it into a movie, huh Leidner?
Seven years passed while watching it. I hobbled out of the theater feeling as if I’d been paroled in the waning years of a sentence whose heinous crime I could no longer remember, but had surely committed.
I scratched my beard and wondered, “Was Anonymous more boring? Or confusing?” Impossible to know!
And I almost longed for the blustery drear from which I had been freed.
Rivers of rats are hard to tell apart as they panic and scurry about on important quests; the many figures in Anonymous are equally indiscernible.
A bloated backstory cinched into a present action whose stakes are never established, wrapped within a different present’s cliffhanger, further tucked into a present-day Manhattan playhouse act that elicited nervous LOLs in the first thirty seconds of the movie.
Anonymous was halfway done before I realized who the main character was in the backstory. All characters past and present looked unlike their counterparts in the other timeline; or looked, sounded, and behaved exactly like their foils in the same timeline. I also remember none of their names, titles, or connection to Queen Elizabeth’s jizz-sticky throne.
The fact that none of the mistaken identity or generic incoherency was intentional ironically highlights Anonymous‘ epic fail: making it abundantly clear exactly who Shakespeare was and wasn’t in the first Act. This liberated the overcooked spaghetti that followed from the one thing that could’ve made it bearable: the mystery of authorship that brought us to the theater in the first place.
The next two hours aren’t insane or explosive enough to be fun. Scenes are orgies of exposition unlubricated by dramatic tension or directional clarity. Wait, who was that? Oh, yeah, okay. Wait, but? What emotion am I supposed to be feeling? Why did they have to do that? grumbled the groundlings in my brain every time someone grandstanded or threatened or stormed from a room.
The only thing that makes less sense than the plot of Anonymous… is why Olivia Wilde wasn’t cast as the young queen? Or any of the other generically buxom roles she could’ve strapped on a corset to portray? In order to entertain myself during the bewildering dullness of every conversation, I pictured a skit where Olivia Wilde gets all excited going to go see Anonymous, but walks out in a rage halfway through because she realizes she isn’t in it. Outside on the street she fires her agent over the phone. Then she listens to The Shins alone in the limo en route to her penthouse.
Payeth not to see this pile of crap / for life is but a dream that ends too soon / and already meaningful, and full / of Everests of crap we come to know / in the theater of human time, for free / by opening our eyes, and aiming them. / Why pay eight dollars for one nightmare more / twining tiny meaning to minor terror / to be piled upon the greater mountain-nightmare / of waking being, which we are ever given? / Heaven being everywhere an error / in an error, the rumor in the rune, / except for fools confusing truth for ruin / who would give new craters to the moon?