There are great moments in Anonymous, from its arresting opening scene (with Derek Jacobi rushing into a Broadway theater and striding directly onstage) to recreations of the first performances ever given of Henry V and Hamlet before a spellbound throng of groundlings. I, too, was captivated during those thrilling scenes, which is why it’s so frustrating that Anonymous nearly drowns itself in a sea of confusion.
Because no one wants to tell a story in chronological order any more, this saga hopscotches back and forth through three separate time periods (not counting the modern-day framing device with Jacobi). I know this because we see David Thewlis as Queen Elizabeth’s advisor William Cecil in three different makeups: as a middle-aged man, then older, then elderly. It’s easy to keep track of the Queen because she’s played in the two later stages of life by the magnificent—
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