In 1838, lovely governess Elisabeth agrees to bear a child of anonymous English landowner, and he will in return pay her father's debt. At birth she, as agreed, gives up the child. Seven ... See full summary »
Anna is a young and elegant wife of Mr. Karenin, who is wealthy and old. She meets the handsome Count Vronsky. Anna and Vronsky fall in love with each other, and he comes to be with her in St. Petersburg. They are very happy together and make a great looking couple, but soon their happiness gets under social pressures. Anna is hopelessly begging Mr. Karenin for a divorce, but he wants to keep the mother of their child. She has another baby born from her lover Vronsky. Conflict between her untamed desires and painful reality causes her a depression and suicidal thoughts. Written by
Somewhere inside this lukewarm movie, there's a very good movie struggling to get out.
"Anna Karenina" isn't quite a terrible movie. The scenery is pretty; the score, courtesy of Tchaikovsky, is great; and the attempt to balance the two types of relationships is a noble one. Unfortunately, "Anna Karenina" is a severely hobbled movie.
The biggest problem, it pains me to say, is the miscasting of Sophie Marceau in the central role. She is never passionate enough to make us understand why she gives up everything for Vronsky (Sean Bean). Even during some of the more passionate scenes, she is still too composed and collected (Bean suffers from a similar problem, although not as severely as Marceau). Moreover, her French accent is seriously distracting. I admire anybody who can speak multiple languages, but it's all wrong for this movie. The wildly different accents destroy the rhythm of Anna and Vronksy's conversations, and it sometimes feels as though they're not even in the same scene. This, in turn, disastrously torpedoes their chemistry -- a fatal flaw when your entire movie is based on a hot, illicit love affair.
Ironically, both Bean and Marceau have their best moments after the affair goes sour. Vronsky's impatience is the first time we see true sparks from the character; Anna's hallucinations, and the separation from her living son, are genuinely disturbing.
The filmmakers try to juxtapose Anna and Vronsky's whirlwind affair with the slow-but-steady love that develops between rich Levin (Alfred Molina) and Princess Kitty (Mia Kirshner). Although the effort is noble, it has the same effect as the smorgasbord of accents, that of entirely destroying the movie's pace. It feels rushed and superficial in some places, but ploddingly slow in others.
Taken on its own, however, Levin's story is far more compelling than the main plot's lukewarm attempts at passion. Wringing every last drop of psychological depth out of the script, Molina gives a wonderful glimpse into the character's loneliness, melancholy, and eventual peace -- you almost found yourself wishing the movie were just about this guy. As his love interest, Mia Kirschner is a total lightweight and her Canadian accent is as jarring as Marceau's French one; fortunately, Molina has enough gravitas for both of them. If the script had been better, he would have brought the entire movie into warm focus.
As it is, the movie feels disjointed and rambling. Had it been better organized -- and perhaps differently cast -- we might have seen an interesting meditation on the various kinds of love. As it is, we see only a few bright spots amid a sea of disappointment.
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