February 29, 2012

Justify My Netflix: Anonymous

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)


Today's movie: Anonymous, 2011 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because despite being universally panned by critics, I admit that I found the visuals in the commercial for this "Shakespeare was a fraud!" thriller to be incredible, and that I added it to my queue for no other reason than that.

The reality: Surprisingly great! And that's because the thing that critics mainly objected to -- that is, the breathless way this movie adheres to a centuries-old conspiracy theory that was long ago disproved -- is not really an issue with the film itself at all; turns out that the film's cast and crew were merely instructed to act like they seriously believed in this theory by lazy marketing executives who ran one of the most ill-fated promotional campaigns in Hollywood history. The film itself, though, makes it clear from the first freaking second that this theory about someone else being the true author of Shakespeare's works is being played here mostly for laughs, by ingeniously framing our story around the opening of a contemporary Broadway play on the subject that only then cleverly expands into the main milieu of actual Elizabethan London, but with the inherent artificiality of the events remaining a strong theme throughout its entire running time. It's at this point, then, that one realizes what a clever and funny story this actually is, gleefully over the top at every single moment it can get away with, and with some of the most stunning CGI matte work now ever seen in that industry, a smart and bawdy reimagining of this entire subject along the lines of Guy Ritchie's recent updating of Sherlock Holmes. I mean, c'mon, any film that shows Queen Elizabeth I literally giving head to the secret author of Shakespeare's works onscreen is quite obviously a film that doesn't mean to be taken very seriously; and if it wasn't for that ridiculously stupid marketing campaign, in which everyone involved was instructed to act during interviews like this theory is real and that the film is a serious examination of it, people would've understood a lot more how silly and funny this movie actually is, as well as overwhelmingly gorgeous simply from a visual standpoint. It comes strongly recommended to those who can manage to keep their tongue firmly in cheek while watching it.

Strangest piece of trivia: Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson, who play the old and young versions of Elizabeth, are mother and daughter in real life.

Worth your time? Yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 8:52 AM, February 29, 2012. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |