Critic’s Corner: Anna Karenina (2012)

© Focus Features (2012)

After a few weeks of battling a nasty chest infection (it turned out the flu was only a precursor) I’m now back to regularly update this blog – please find my film review of Anna Karenina below!

Joe Wright’s version of Tolstoy’s literary masterpiece is an ambitious film, packed with artistic flair and a seemingly big budget, but sadly this interpretation of the tale completely falls flat.  In an effort to make this version updated and unique compared with the rest of the film adaptations, Wright made the risky decision to set the entire film’s backdrop in a theatre building with the characters constantly pushing the idea that we are watching an ongoing play (going so far as to show the characters around the back of the stage and showing extras changing props etc).  Despite this technique sometimes being visually striking, most of the time it takes away from any immersion you would hope to have in the film.  Count Vronsky’s horse race being set on a theatre stage looked particularly ridiculous and detracted from the emotion of what is a tremendously pivotal scene in the story.

The casting of this film is a bit hit and miss.  Keira Knightley’s portrayal of Anna is an unsympathetic one, acting more like a spoilt brat rather than an emotionally torn woman, making the audience wonder what Karenin or Vronsky ever saw in her in the first place.  Another, albeit very small annoyance, was her crazily frizzy hairstyle.  Not really sure why they decided on that move when her hairstyle doesn’t match the dress of the period OR suit Keira’s face at all (it’s a job for the Fashion Police!).

Aaron Taylor-Johnson has been almost universally regarded as being miscast as Vronsky.  Not dashing or charming, without any hint of masculinity, Taylor-Johnson comes across as an underage boy rather than the object of a passionate love affair!  Being a somewhat modern update you would think that they would cast a man who is very macho/attractive/sexy by today’s standards for Vronsky, whereas Taylor-Johnson’s ultra-blonde makeover here would hardly make any woman “hot and bothered”.  Errrm…the moustache really doesn’t help either.

© Focus Features (2012)

Despite the above, there is hope yet for this film!  Alicia Vekander and Domhnall Gleeson are excellent as Kitty and Levin.  Despite being a small portion of the film, their time together on-screen shows real chemistry and Levin’s efforts to win Kitty’s heart is very sweet and moving.  The standout star, however, is Jude Law who plays Anna’s spurned husband, Alexei Karenin.  Easily one of Law’s best performances, he commands the screen with his passionless, yet earnest, attempts to continue his marriage to Anna, and his strong political convictions which keep him chained to his work.  Compelling, intriguing and scene-stealing, Karenin had my sympathies right from the beginning despite his faults.

Rating: 6 out of 10 Stars

I would have made it 5 stars but bumped it up by 1 star due to the three outstanding actors mentioned above and the beautifully detailed costumes.  I tried hard to enjoy this picture, being a fan of the Tolstoy tale, but the errors in casting and backdrop sadly made this a case of “style over substance”.

For those of you in the mood for a modern romantic flick that uses creative flair in a way that adds to the immersion of the story, try 500 Days of Summer!

2 thoughts on “Critic’s Corner: Anna Karenina (2012)

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