Thursday, November 29, 2012

Anna Karenina movie review.

Man, Keira Knightley must really enjoy love triangles. As if movies like Love Actually, The Duchess, and Never Let Me Go weren’t enough, she has another one to add to her résumé, Joe Wright’s unique and experimental take on Leo Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina. Wright has directed some terrific films such as Pride & Prejudice (My favorite movie of 2005), and Atonement (One of my favorites of 2007). He faced a recent slump with The Soloist and Hanna, and it appears he may still be in that slump, even when he’s in his natural element.

The film examines many sub plots and characters that it’s hard to completely summarize it. The main focus is of Anna Karenina, a woman married to government official Karenin, a man twenty years her senior. The two of them also have a son. Finding herself not in love with her husband, she begins having a secret affair with a young cavalry officer named Vronsky. Interjected throughout are the troubles of friends and family surrounding her: Including her brother Stiva and his wife Dolly, a friend of Stiva’s named Konstantin, and the object of Konstantin’s desires, young Kitty, who also fancies Vronsky.

I’m going to divide my thoughts on this movie into three sections.

The eye candy is fabulous.
1: The technical design of this movie is gorgeous beyond comprehension. Joe Wright has always had a keen visual eye, and this movie further proves that. The movement of Seamus McGarvy’s photography is fluid and sweeping, choreographed to the action and the music with such precision. Jacqueline Durran provides costumes that rival her work for Atonement. Production Designer Sarah Greenwood is MVP, though. Something I really love is the fact that most of the movie is set within a small theater, so the stage and the seating area have to change styles to fit the mood and surroundings of each scene. It’s spectacular stuff.

Keira Knightley, also fabulous.
2: The acting is great throughout. If I were to give specifics, I would say that Keira Knightley gives one of the best, if not the best performance of her career. Terrific as always, the way she manages to hold this movie together is commendable. Surrounding her is a talented who’s who of UK talent. Jude Law manages to convey both the stern and heartbroken sides of his character. Matthew MacFadyen provides much of the film’s comic relief. Kelly MacDonald takes a break from Boardwalk Empire with soft and heartfelt understanding. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the one weak link, so wooden as to channel cardboard.

3: Here’s where we get into the groaning and grumbling portion of the review. While I appreciate the look and the talent that went into making this movie, I must note that the direction too often must make up for the story’s shortcomings. The script by Tom Stoppard feels very uneven, but that may have more to do with the movie’s biggest flaw. The pacing of the movie is simply awful. The first act is not bad at all, but the second act slogs along at a rate that is punishingly slow, which also affects the final act as well.

Overall, it’s clear that Joe Wright and everyone involved wanted this to be a good movie, and had the pace been more even, this would be a good movie. Unfortunately, the lack of rhythm docks a full star off the final rating.

*** / *****

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