Final Week: “Anonymous” & “The Way”

You’ve been asking for it, now it’s here! “Anonymous,” a political thriller advancing the theory that it was in fact Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford who penned Shakespeare’s plays; set against the backdrop of the succession of Queen Elizabeth I, and the Essex Rebellion against her.

Instead of more pantaloon and puffy-sleeved merriment in the spirit of “Shakespeare in Love,” the last film to leap into the knowledge gap, writer John Orloff and Roland Emmerich have given us one of the darkest, most harrowing costume dramas in memory.

There’s a comic subplot involving Shakespeare himself, who is “revealed” in “Anonymous” to have been a semi-literate bumpkin, a journeyman actor (Rafe Spall) who happened to have been around when the real author, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, needed a front.

But mostly Orloff and Emmerich are interested in machinations of the royal court in which they build a mind-bogglingly elaborate, conspiracy-ridden counter-history involving the doomed de Vere (Rhys Ifans), his one-time lover Queen Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave), her counsel Robert Cecil (David Thewlis), the buffoonish Shakespeare and the rest of the era’s usual suspects.

If you have no idea of what actually happened under the reign of Elizabeth I, who is shown here to be more of a flighty, romance- obsessed Princess Diana type than the flinty Virgin Queen of lore, then “Anonymous” is wonderfully entertaining – a powerfully acted, gorgeously realised depiction of Golden Age London. Excerpted from a review by Mark Naglazas  trailer