TIME mag just wrote a rave review for Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina. Knightley has been quietly challenging the roles she seemed destined to play with last year’s A Dangerous Method and now, with Anna Karenina. Richard Corliss writes of Knightley:
The novel has been filmed at least two dozen times, including silent and sound-movie versions, in 1927 and 1935, with Greta Garbo, and a 1948 film with Vivien Leigh. Two of the most incandescent stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age would be tough competition for Knightley, if she were playing the same kind of Anna. But guided by Wright, her director for Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, Knightley embodies Anna as a girlish woman who has never felt erotic love; once smitten, she is raised to heavenly ecstasy before tumbling into the abyss of shame. It’s a nervy performance, acutely attuned to the volcanic changes a naive creature must enjoy and endure on her first leap into mad passion. She helps make Anna Karenina an operatic romance worth singing about.
Philip French writes:
Still, Knightley’s Anna has the right combination of passion, confusion, cruelty and near madness, and there’s a brilliant moment (which comes out of the novel) where she reveals her physical revulsion for her husband by angrily criticising his irritating habit of cracking his knuckles.
But there is no getting around the fact that the film’s reception will be mixed. It appears as though Joe Wright turned and did something no one expected him to do – he filmed the Anna Karenina no one expected him to make. Did you all just think Anna Karenina would be kind of by-the-numbers Wright and Knightley? But the critics instead seemed half-baffled by it. It is perhaps one of those films you either go with or you don’t. Unfortunately, it is one of the few Big Oscar Movies with a plot that revolves around a female character. In fact, it might be the ONLY one. I’m rooting for it but haven’t yet seen it.