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Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina

What She said:

She

The He did not partake in this film.  He knows what he likes, and he certainly knows what genre he doesn’t like, and that’s any period film ever created.  So, Anna Karenina was a solo review effort from the start.  My eagerness to see this movie was not fueled by its mediocre reviews from critics.  I was driven by the fact that I really enjoyed director Joe Wright’s work with Pride and Prejudice and Atonement.  I was hoping that this take on the 1877 Tolstoy novel would live up to the standards of these previous movies.  Alas, I’ll call Anna Karenina a noble effort, but I don’t quite think he hit the mark.

Let me start with some background on the plot.  Anna Karenina is a love story focusing on the title character, a wealthy trophy wife to an older man, and her interludes with Alexei Vronsky, a younger, more tempting specimen.  The pair’s attraction is immediate, and before long Karenina finds herself in a pickle where she winds up pregnant with Vronsky’s child.  She wants to leave her husband, but he doesn’t want to watch her throw her life away.  Plus, he sort of just wants to stick it to her, so he refuses to grant her the divorce.  Karenina struggles with her emotions as well as the intense scrutiny that she faces once her exploits are exposed.  Afterall, she was supposed to be society, and a lady of society does not publically engage in adultery.  That’s not to say that there isn’t oodles of philandering going around with other characters.  It’s just that Karenina attempts to actually leave her husband and be with the man she loves.  The tryst ultimately is her undoing and things end tragically for Karenina.  Such a downer.

Anna Karenina

Wright should get some credit for trying to do something a little different with the adaptation of this film.  He has many of the scenes unfold in a playhouse setting, with the stage props playing a role in the active storyline.  However, other, more traditional scenes take place in normal settings.  I think it was a more stylized way of presenting the story.  In some ways, it’s a little neat, but overall I’d say it didn’t really work.  First of all, the implementation was a bit clunky and so it hinders the actual plot of the film.  Frankly, it just doesn’t really make much sense.  Additionally, the stage scenes have a tendency to become a bit frantic, and this doesn’t work well with the overall pacing of the movie.  Anna Karenina actually starts to feel a little like Moulin Rouge, but where Moulin Rouge worked because it was an outwardly kooky movie, Anna Karenina does not because it can, at times, be deadly serious.

Anna Karenina

The movie’s strength, however, is in the beauty of its sets, costumes, and cinematography.  This really is a wonderful movie to look at.  It’s a shame that the way it was produced creates a disjointed and somewhat unengaging storyline.  Overall, not enough emphasis was really given to the plot of this film.  But the takeaway is that it looks nice.  Surprisingly, some of the acting is also very strong.  Kudos to both Keira Knightley, who played Karenina and Jude Law, who played her husband, Alexei Karinen.  Knightley portrays Karenina with an ardent passion for the character.  And Law is really the only character that the audience will actually connect with.  He’s pained by his wife’s escapades, but also doesn’t want to cause a ripple in the public.  I think one very important character that was wildly miscast was Vronsky.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson of Kick-Ass fame took on the role.  Frankly, he’s not handsome, manly, or tempting enough to be believable as a lover for Karenina, and he and Knightley do not have much on-screen chemistry.  I was largely distracted by Taylor-Johnson’s subpar attempt at facial hair. 

If looks were everything, I’d say Anna Karenina is a masterpiece, but they’re not and so I cannot 100 percent recommend this movie.  If you like period movies and are curious, you might want to give it a shot.  But don’t expect much in the way of a cohesive story.

Thumbs half up.

Anna Karenina

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