** SPOILERS **
Anonymous is a dreary slog preaching a message most people don't want to hear: that William Shakespeare is not the author of any of the plays, poems and sonnets attributed to him. Having destroyed the world in Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012, director Roland Emmerich set his sights on taking that fraud Shakespeare down. Uh, thanks? Anonymous makes no bones about who the true author of Shakespeare's work is: Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. Beginning in present day, when Derek Jacobi enthralls a packed playhouse by standing still on stage and narrating the story of that slimy con artist Will Shakespeare, Anonymous flashes back to an impressively computer-generated 1600's England, when de Vere (Rhys Ifans) is an old man and Queen Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave) is in her old crone years, before flashing back again 40 years to when de Vere was a young boy writing plays ("A Midsummer Night's Dream") for Elizabeth when she was in her young bloom of hotness (played by Redgrave's daughter Joely Richardson). Then Anonymous flashes forward 20 years to de Vere as a young stud (played by Jamie Campbell Bower), writing his forbidden plays while under the charge of Robert Cecil, the Earl of Canterbury (David Thewlis). As a person of noble birth in Protestant England, being a playwright is an unseemly vocation, but de Vere can't resist seeing his plays performed for "the mob" at the Globe theatre. Thus he hatches a scheme for his plays to be "written by" his handpicked playwright Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto). And they would have gotten away with it too, if not for some illiterate, philandering, low-rent, charlatan actor from Stratford-on-Avon named William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) who rushed up on stage and hogged the credit for the plays (before he crowd surfed the Groundlings in the Globe in what has to be England's inaugural mosh pit). Spall plays Shakespeare as if Emmerich instructed him to watch Mozart in Amadeus and then play him just like that, only not a genius. Anonymous upstages its own scandal about Shakespeare by delving into Queen Elizabeth's youthful promiscuity and spinning a yarn of royal incest that would make Buster and Lucille Bluth blush: de Vere and Elizabeth had the hots for each other and sired a bastard son, who was hidden away unsuspectingly as the Earl of Southhampton. But de Vere is himself a bastard born of a young Elizabeth and was hidden away as the Earl of Oxford! Oh schnap! De Vere did the nasty in the past-y with his mom! Their son is also her grandson! I bet old Bill Shakespeare could have written a hell of a play about that.