It's this relatively convoluted movie based on the idea that Shakespeare may not have written any of the plays attributed to him. It's set in a gritty, grungy, Shakespearean London, with gritty, grungy players, as well as non-grungy (but still gritty) royals.
The story could have been kind of interesting. In fact, it was kind of interesting. It just wasn't what I would call well done.
You see, while we're still trying to figure out who everyone is in the movie (and there are a lot of characters called both by first names and last names and lordly names and nicknames), they started jumping back and forth in time. (Remember my recent, coincidental, complaint about "Thrashbacks"?) So just when you think you know which one is Stratford and which one is Oxford, they go and make them both teenagers, and you have to start over again.
On the plus side, it was quite easy to figure out which one was Elizabeth I, whether she was Joely Richardson or Vanessa Redgrave (a nifty bit of casting, if you ask me), because they kind of had the same look of "I'm the queen" throughout. And Shakespeare, Jonson, Marlowe, and many of their crew mostly stayed in one timeline.
But, by the time I had that all figured out I was so confused by the other players that I basically just had to sit and let the rest of it wash over me and not try to figure it out. And gritty and grungy frequently don't make for the most pleasant of "over-washing."
I think there were bastard children, some political posturing, and at least one dwarf, but honestly I'm not entirely sure. Sadly, I feel the same way about the plot and storyline.
Overall rating: C-. I think it made it worse that a story told in a straight line would probably have been pretty interesting.