Without Tolsoy's profound interior narration, Anna Karenina is just a soap opera, and for some reason director Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) has decided to compound this problem with deliberate, showy artifice. Much of the action is staged beneath the proscenium of a darkened, peeling, gas-lit theater, though the film periodically opens out to realistic sets and exterior locations. The casting is mainly disastrous: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) turns Vronsky, Anna's dashing lover, into a pretty cipher, and Domnhall Gleeson (son of Brendan) makes Levin seem more like a cocker spaniel than Tolstoy's passionate agrarian socialist. As Anna, Keira Knightley stands or falls on the strength of her fellow players; her scenes with Jude Law, playing Anna's spurned but upright husband, have a gravitas the rest of the movie sorely lacks. Tom Stoppard wrote the script; with Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams, and Emily Watson.
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