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Joe Wright's energetic adaptation of Tolstoy's classic romance is a bold, visually stylized work -- for both better and worse.
All Critics (185)
| Top Critics (44)
| Fresh (116)
| Rotten (69)
| DVD (2)
So can we somehow make a bargain with the film world: no more Anna Kareninas? You're making idiots of yourselves.
Trying to one-up Tolstoy was always going to be a bad idea, though I wouldn't object to seeing a Bond movie, or Les Miserables, staged in the same way.
It's a half-success -- a baldly conceptual response to the Leo Tolstoy novel, with a heavy theatrical framework placed around the narrative of girl meets boy, followed by girl meets train.
In this adaptation, director Joe Wright, plus screenwriter Tom Stoppard, are determined to tame the untameable. And they do.
"Anna Karenina," lush as it is, fails to strike a fully human chord.
The very picture of noble failure, it's a bright red heart without a beat.
Anna Karenina drags in the middle and rushes to its ugly end but the sets, the choreography, the glorious costumes and the secondary characters are pieces of a superior film.
Heavily flawed and unapologetically indulgent, strong performances from its all-star cast and several sumptuous set-pieces just about set Wright's Anna Karenina aside from the madding crowd of bland costume romps.
The constant flashes Anna has of a train rolling on a track -- an obvious foreshadow of her fate -- are beyond ridiculous.
Wright has said he did not wish to make 'yet another period drama', and he's achieved this, has explored something new, but at an emotional cost.
This Anna Karenina might not be Tolstoy, but it's the next best thing to a Baz Luhrmann extravaganza, and with even better costumes. The conceit is ingenious, the execution breathtaking (or breathless at a minimum).
It's far from a perfect film, but Anna Karenina should be praised for its attempt to reinvent the wheel of stuffy costume-clad Masterpiece Theater for the big screen.
Joe Wright does an impeccable job adapting this gigantic classic novel into no more than 130 minutes of sumptuous experience (the production design is splendid), placing the entire action on a theater stage that represents society and benefiting from some excellent performances.
Two problems with this movie: (1) the source material is deadly boring and (2) Keira Knightley. She's just not the elegantly tragic figure that the central role needs to generate an audience's empathy.
On the bright side, I really liked the whole "stage thing" that the director threw in to throw an element of movement in a storyline that mostly treads water.
Setting this sprawling, aristocratic tale of social and literal suicide on a stage is at first gimmicky, later mindfucky, and on the whole, an interesting choice with uneven but admirable execution. I especially liked the backstage/wings/galleys used as the seedier parts of Moscow/St. Petersburg and the breaking of the opera house's fourth wall during the disastrous horse race.
Keira Knightley is fine; I have come to not hate her anymore. Alicia Vikander sparkles as the spoiled and naive Kitty. Domhnall Gleeson is romantic but severe as the smitten Levin. Blond pretty-boy Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass) sticks out like a sore thumb as Vronsky, the object of Anna's affections. Movie-mate, Jim Hunter, suggested that in keeping with the magical realism of the set design concept, Jude Law should have played both Aleksei, the cuckolded husband, and the hapless "other man." That would have been bomb-diggedy.
In terms of story, I'm disappointed that this version of Anna Karenina is so visually vanguard but still entrenched in the tradition of representing Anna as merely an adulterer, then hot/crazy harpy, then cautionary tale.
Amazing production design, really breathtaking but the staged presentation while unusual puts the story at a remove. Good performances especially Matthew MacFadyen and Jude Law.
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