By Steven Suskin
12 Feb 2012
Who was the Steve Jobs of 1602? The equivalent of Bill Gates? Hugh Jackman, Eli Manning, Madonna? The celebrities of the day — whoever was monopolizing the front pages, or their equivalent — are long forgotten. Yet we keep hearing about that enigmatic scribe from Stratford-upon-Avon, who wrote all those plays. Or maybe didn't write all those plays. And who hobnobbed with the queen, or didn't. Yes, it's old Will Shakespeare who is once again on our minds, our stages, and even on our wide-screen television. In this case, we have Roland Emmerich's Anonymous [Columbia]. The folks out in movieland have taken those centuries-old rumors — did he? or didn't he? — and latched onto one Edward de Vere, just then the Earl of Oxford. Did he write the plays and let some illiterate bumpkin take credit? This is not an argument I'll jump into; I would guess that Will wrote the plays, but I haven't done decades of research on the subject and am glad to stay out of it. (I can, however, authoritatively speak about stuff written — or not — by the likes of Irving Berlin and Jerry Herman.)
I do not take "Anonymous" as serious scholarship on the W.S. question; those who do might well find the notions set forth in the movie to be infuriating. I see it, though, as a colorful and effective period adventure of the fictional variety. Vanessa Redgrave, as always, attracts our attention as the dame who put Elizabeth in Elizabethan; Joely Richardson, offspring of Redgrave and director Tony Richardson (of "Tom Jones"), plays her mother's daughter. Or, rather, her mother's — Vanessa's — younger self. Rhys Ifans, whom you might remember from "Notting Hill," plays Shakespeare. Or rather Oxford, this film's anointed real Shakespeare, while the real Shakespeare (but not the authentic Shakespeare) is played by Rafe Spall.
Tom Stoppard, that is, who shared an Oscar with co-author Marc Norman. The three aforementioned stars are accompanied by flavorful performances from Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Ben Affleck, Simon Callow and more. Special features include commentary from director John Madden, more commentary from cast and crew, and "Shakespeare in Love and on Film."
Visit PlaybillStore.com to check out theatre-related DVDs for sale.Continued...