November 11, 2012

Anna Karenina (2012)

Keira Knightly, Jude Law

I've been dying to see this movie since I first saw the trailer. And no wonder! A great movie trailer can lure you into even the crappiest of movies! (Case in point: I remember seeing the A Walk in the Clouds because of the trailer. Not a confession I wanted to make public, but it really made my point.) I mean, they are so important that movie producers sometimes hire a whole separate crew of people just to make the trailers. There are even awards for movie promotional materials! Which makes sense, when you really think about it. It's kind of like how people hire professionals to take their dating site profile picture and create their profile for them. It's all in the initial sale.  (FYI: if you need do this, it probably explains why you are still single.)

The movie delivers on some of the promises from the preview. The movie is beautiful. Stunning, really.  In stark contrast to many period pieces that feel stiff and quiet, the movie is in constant motion, full of characters and colors - so much so that your eyes are sometimes scanning the screen, trying not to miss anything. The movie also runs music in the background almost continuously, which is actually nice because it keeps the viewer paying attention through the not-as-interesting beginning part where we're being introduced to all the characters very hurriedly. And the creative decision to portray the movie like a play is sort of genius. I mean, the book is 900 pages (side note: does Tolstoy know how to write anything shorter than all the Harry Potter books combined??) and condensing it into a two hour movie is no easy feat. So I can appreciate the difficulty of trying to cram everything in and can manage to overlook some of the choppier transitions.

And the costumes. Oh, the costumes! Divine, of course! So amazing that Banana Republic even made an entire line inspired by the costumes. I'm biased, of course, but Keira Knightly looks amazing throughout the entire movie. It's a little strange to see her make this transition into older woman and mother, but I suppose that's a natural progression of things in a Hollywood career for a woman. Sigh. 

The acting is wonderful as well, especially a surprising comedic turn by Matthew McFayden. Since the only other character I've seen him as is the stern Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, he's practically unrecognizable as a totally lovable Oblonsky. The only casting I had beef with was Count Vronsky. This is a man who is supposed to be so utterly handsome that Anna Karenina is willing to ponder sacrificing her family and her entire life after just seeing him once. So forgive me if I expect such a man to look like, well, better than this guy. Though I suppose he wasn't helped by the frosted tips and horrible porn 'stache he sported for the movie. Really, if that was what was considered attractive in 1870's Russia...

But while the acting wasn't a problem, the script was. It seems strange to demand that a two hour movie I didn't particularly enjoy should be made longer, but I think it would have helped. Character development was shallow and anyone who hadn't read the book could be prone to confusion in how quickly relationships developed in the story. Then again, anyone who has read the book will probably be disappointed in how much had to be cut out to fit into a two hour movie. Damned if you do, damned if I don't, I guess.

My biggest critique of the movie is this: the story is Russian, through and through. It's written by Tolstoy (does it get any more Russian than that?). The characters wear lots of fur and drink vodka at every opportunity. They have names like Aleksei and Sacha and Constanine. In fact, the only Russian clich├ęs missing in it are  a couple of matryoshka dolls and a shot of the Red Square. So why does the movie feel like a BBC production? Oh, is it because every person in the movie is British and they don't even bother to change their accent? Ah yes, that must be it. You might think, 'But wait, didn't you just watch a movie in which Keira Knightly had a Russian accent'? Yes, yes I did. But that accent was nowhere to be found here. As Tia Carrere says in True Lies, "Pity."

Final word: Like a cute guy with a good profile on, this movie had everything I wanted on paper, but there was just no spark.


  1. i'm still going to see it. just not in the theatre.

  2. Ha ha, you are hilarious, Anna. "Damned if you do, damned if you don't," I love that.

    I totally agree with you, though - saw this last night and thought "this could have been LONGER, just to do the book more justice." I can't imagine how weird it must have felt to people who didn't read the book. Nice to see a director giving the audience (probably too much) credit instead of pandering to them, though.

    I assume you are referring to "A Dangerous Method" when it comes to Knightly's Russian accent movie? I thought it was brilliant.