Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wanting More at the Movies

ANONYMOUS is getting very mixed reviews, Critics hate it. They (1) cite an over-complicated and murky plot, or (2) get incensed at the idea behind the movie, which is that Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare's plays, which instead were composed by Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford.

I don't get incensed about that. I think Shakespeare probably did write them, but certainly alternate history is a fair genre for movie makers. From what I remember from graduate school, Oxford is a perfectly viable candidate for authorship, assuming you can account for some of the plays being produced only after his death (which ANONYMOUS does).

The plot, on the other hand.... oh, dear. There are two problems here [SPOILER ALERTS]. First, unless you already know something about the relationship of the Cecils, father and son, to Elizabeth 1, to the religious turmoil in England, and to the claims of the Scottish James VI to the English throne, the movie does not do a good job of clarifying these. Second (and, to my mind, much worse) is the utterly ridiculous idea that Elizabeth, who didn't even get undressed for bed without multiple attendants, could have had several bastard sons without anyone knowing. This -- which could, I think, have been left out of the movie -- wrecks any chance of suspension of disbelief. It also moves the plot from melodramatic to penny-dreadful (incest!).

Still, despite all that, I have to say that I enjoyed the movie. I liked looking at sixteenth-century London, I liked the character of Ben Jonson (central to the plot). I liked the acting. Also -- an added bonus for SF fans! -- the Earl of Oxford is a dead ringer for Robert Silverberg. I even enjoyed the less ridiculous historical conjectures. But...

Why can't movie makers seem to grasp that sometimes less really is more?

1 comment:

Lou said...


Nice! Means "cheap, sensational fiction."

I had never heard that. Needed to look it up.

Ms. Kress, you have educated me yet again!

Thank you!