Period pieces can be quite enchanting especially those that are based on well-known books beloved by many, as could have been the case with ‘Anna Karenina’, but unfortunately it didn’t take me anywhere I wished to escape to. Honestly I’ve never had the opportunity to read the book, so I can’t speak of similarities or lack there of but what I do know is that screenwriter Tom Stoppard decided to focus only on the love stories of the book by Leo Tolstoy, which might have been a mistake. Director Joe Wright who has made period pieces such as ‘Atonement’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ decided to go a different route with this one making it theatrical. So, the movie is set almost entirely in a theater where you can see the different scenario changes and props, which didn’t work for me among other things.
This story is set in Imperial Russia during the late 19th century where in an image based society the aristocrat Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) who is married to affluent Alexei Karenin (Jude Law) and lives in St. Petersburg, unexpectedly meets Count Vronksy (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) in a trip to Moscow and a passionate affair begins which will change Anna’s life forever.
I enjoy going to the theater but here the experience of seeing a play carried out in a film wasn’t so entertaining; the different scenario changes are distracting and confusing. Some scenarios are lavish and well crafted and would do well in an actual theater, but here I found the stage act to be pretentious and tedious. The main love story itself is captivating up to a certain point, then it just becomes overly dramatic and unbearable. There are about four different love stories that come into play, each with different importance and significance, but none interesting enough to keep me engrossed in the film.
The acting is actually pretty good and it was one of the few things I liked about this film. Knightley shows a difference side to herself as a demented, passionate woman who will fight against gossip and society’s standards, although her character gets annoying I blame that on the script. Law gives a very artistic, compassionate performance as a loving husband and Taylor-Johnson is perfect for his part as heartthrob that only listens to his heart and he’s ever so yummy even with his ridiculous mustache and messed up hair.
Every single actor involved really give wonderful performances and give the movie a well rounded feel which could have made it enjoyable, but the script and format did not do it for me. Towards the end of the 130 minutes I felt like I was being tortured and could not wait to leave the theater. As it progress it kept getting more pretentious, dramatic and boring.
I’ll give credit to the love scenes that are artistically beautiful as are some of the scenarios and shots. The costumes are beautiful and there’s a dance scene that’s elegant and captivating.
So, therefore the aesthetic look of this film is beautiful but the heart of the movie aka the story is torturous and very hard to enjoy. This movie is wrapped up in a beautiful shiny shell that would make you think and imagine it would be epic but it’s completely empty and shallow in the center leaving you upset, bored and annoyed.