Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Film Review: Anna Karenina (2012)
The film's theatrical approach is certainly clever and visually arresting, but in the first quarter of the film it almost becomes too distracting; at various points Wright's stylized approach goes a step too far and what looks like a theatre production threatens to become some kind of ghastly Lloyd Weber musical: characters move around the "stage" in a sort of walk/dance, the music rises, and I extended a quivering finger to hit the STOP button in anticipation of Keira Knightley belting out a tune called "I Just Met a Man Named Vronsky." Thankfully, the film settles down and concentrates more on the story and less on the stage trickery.
On the whole this is a decent film version of the novel, mostly held together by the acting of Jude Law as Anna's saintly husband, and Matthew MacFadyen as Oblonsky, Anna's brother. The rest of the cast give polished, professional performances, and then we get to Keira Knightley: she's got acting energy to burn, but her acting is also a distracting combination of the hammy and the hysterical. She's all twitches and manic grins, which works part of the time, but on the whole the performance would have benefited from a leavening of subtlety. But the weakest member of the cast is Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vronsky. He doesn't bring much to the party except an ability to fill out a period costume in a pleasing manner, and every time Jude Law comes on screen one is reminded that he would have been the first choice to play Vronsky ten or so years ago, and he would have done a far better job. Anna Karenina is worth seeing if only because it gives us a bracing re-imagining of how to translate nineteenth-century literature for the twenty-first.