Cinema Review: Anonymous

You can't get in. You're bard.

DIR: Roland Emmerich • WRI: John Orloff • PRO: Larry Franco, Roland Emmerich, Robert Leger, John Orloff, Marc Weigert • ED: Peter Adam • DOP: Anna Foerster • DES: Sebastian Krawinkel • CAST: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis, Sebastian Armesto

There are some directors whose work will always go before them. Whether it’s their visual effects, their style of direction, their output, it takes a certain courage to go completely in the opposite direction and defy what’s expected from them. Roland Emmerich is a director known for massive set-pieces with huge special effects and very little subtlety. Some may even describe him as a European Michael Bay. To take on a script that focuses on the final days of the Tudor dynasty and the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays is absolutely baffling – and yet here we are.

The story takes place, as mentioned, in Elizabethan England and follows the intrigue and political machinations surrounding the succession of Elizabeth I. However, parallel to this, is the story of the birth of modern theatre. The whole film is something of a love letter to ‘Shakespeare’s’ work and the film does a good job of making it seem relevant – both in terms of the story and for the audience watching. The cast is filled with notable Shakesperean actors such as Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis, Derek Jacobi and more and it’s them that give this film the weight it needs to be somewhat credible. The very idea of Roland Emmerich attempting something like this without these actors backing him up is laughable – and it’s them that deserve the most credit for this film.

Throughout the film, you can see that Emmerich is desperately restraining himself and trying to fit his visual style into what could have been something completely different in the hands of a director. Indeed, the film itself is a bit confused. In one respect, it’s trying to be a historical film – carefully laying out its viewpoints and backing them up with fact and so forth. In another, it’s trying to be a swashbuckler/period thriller – all court intrigue and muskets. In another breath still, it’s a melodrama. Unfortunately, it becomes muddled and can’t settle down to one particular train of thought. The screenplay is magnificent and Rhys Ifans does a spectacular job in his role, likewise Natasha Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave both display Elizabeth’s mercurial nature without giving in to the lure of playing her as a tempermental shrew.

If this screenplay was given to a different director who had more experience working with this kind of material, there’s a good chance this film would be more than what it is. The varying elements of the script could have done with more refinement by the director. In other words, he should have picked a style and focused on that, rather than trying to fit every aspect of what the script entailed. It’s a missed opportunity in that Roland Emmerich is so woefully unskilled at making films with this amount of depth and substance. He might be trying to for a new direction and that’s fine. This is a decent first attempt – however, this script feels like it could have been something spectacular in the hands of a more gifted director than he.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Anonymous released on 28th October 2011

Anonymous – Official Website

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Letters to Juliet

Letters to Juliet

DIR: Gary Winick • WRI: Jose Rivera, Tim Sullivan • PRO: Ellen Barkin, Mark Canton, Eric Feig, Caroline Kaplan, Patrick Wachsburger • ED: Bill Pankow • DOP: Marco Pontecorvo • CAST: Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Egan, Gael Garcia Bernal

The problem with gratuitously romantic films is that they often tend to alienate those audience members who have a lick of common sense! While there is nothing wrong with a film wearing its heart on its sleeve, it is quite something else to try to embrace an airy-fairy heroine with no sense of maturity whatsoever.

Sophie (Seyfried) is in her mid-20s, working as a fact-checker for The New Yorker magazine, living in Manhattan and engaged to gorgeous, passionate chef, Victor (Bernal). Victor is just weeks away from opening his own restaurant and is unfortunately rather busy in the run-up to his launch. When they go on holiday to Verona he drags her around beautiful vineyards and gourmet food tastings (very difficult to sympathise) and she moans and groans until they decide to do their own thing. Sophie visits Juliet Capulet’s house where women flock from all over the world to bring love letters which they leave on the wall outside. The plot thickens when Sophie meets the women who reply to the letters known as the Secretaries of Juliet. She soon joins in and becomes involved in a 50 year-old love story involving an elderly British lady (Redgrave) in search of her true love, much to the chagrin of her snooty grandson (Egan).

The plot is silly, but rather fun. The Tuscan countryside is incredibly beautiful which makes the film pleasant on the eye and the plot moves along at a good pace, never leaving the audience bored. However, it is very difficult to villainise the ‘unromantic’ fiancée who only seeks to live life with his feet on the ground. The term ‘true love’ is tossed around constantly but the fact is Sophie has no concept of working through problems or allowing her partner space during a stressful time. She has no time for his passion for food but gets in a strop when he doesn’t listen to her nonsense love stories.

This is a silly, fluffy film with a small amount of charm which comes in the form of the enchanting Amanda Seyfried. Her love interest (Christopher Egan) is thoroughly unlikeable and they certainly don’t have enough chemistry to suggest that she should give up her whole life to be with him. However, Vanessa Redgrave’s search for her long lost love proves infinitely more affecting, and this part of the story is sweet and seems to have more of a grown-up sensibility. Letters to Juliet will probably delight die-hard romantics but it is difficult not to be annoyed by its simplistic and downright naive view of what ‘true love’ really is?

Charlene Lydon

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
Letters to Juliet
is released on 11th June 2010

Letters to Juliet – Official Website

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