Keira Knightley Singled out for Brave Performance in Anna Karenina

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.

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46 Comments

  1. tipsy
    September 11, 2012

    Brave performence? So now every performence with actressing in it is brave? It`s strictly a tagline for KK? Eyeroll.

    AK is the safest bait around. Ditto playing a mentlaly challenged person. Now, the trick is to pull it off. She didn`t pull off a schizophrenic. She`s getting nice notices for AK but nowhere Jennifer Lawrence praise. So other actresses just give better performences effortlessly without “brave” or whatever tags.

  2. AD
    September 11, 2012

    @Tipsy: have you seen it or is it as usual the bashing of Knigthley just because? Sasha is not comparing this performance to Jennifer Lawrence’s. And if AK was the safest bait around then there would be no issue about her being nominated no?
    Moving on, Anne Thompson did a great interview with Keira in which she talks about AK and also how David Cronenberg and ADM set her free as an actress
    http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/knightley-talks-anna-karenina-and-how-cronenberg-set-her-free-exclusive-video
    She is also Vogue’s October cover girl: http://s11.postimage.org/dlrum3dcj/Vogue_1.jpg

  3. Bryce Forestieri
    September 11, 2012

    “Eyeroll”? LOL you should be bitch slapped right there

  4. The Pope
    September 11, 2012

    @ tipsy
    Can’t agree with you. Any actress who tackles Anna Karenina is setting herself up for a fall. Garbo and Leigh are the watermarks and to prove my point, who remembers Sophie Marceau? So, Knightly is brave. That said, I think this version of Karenina is a mess. A brave, daring version but a complete mess. The direction drowns out most of the plot and the performances are lost in the dressing. Gleeson is good as is Alicia Vikander as Kitty and the film’s best scene comes when Gleeson’s Levin catches a glimpse of Kitty as her carriage takes her across the horizon. If it weren’t for DoP Seamus McGarvey, this film would have sunk beneath its incredible conceit.

  5. tipsy
    September 11, 2012

    I`m just saying that this is the second year that KK`s performence is described as “brave” to which I roll my eyes. What is it with “brave” label anyway? Who started it? I just don`t think that her choices of roles are any braver than of other actresses or actors. I mean, what does it even mean? Starring in yet another costume drama is hardly anything new for her. Ditto tackling a classic character. If anything, this is a her safe zone. Just because the movie is shot in a gimmick theater setting it doesn`t mean it`s brave. They figured they needed a hook cause the book was apdated to death.

    But, anyway, she`s getting brave label, fine watever. She isn`t getting a frontrunner label and reviews like Lawrence that say flat out she`s the best of the bunch. Now that`s kind of tagline that means something, not the “she may not be the best but she is brave” sour grapes.

  6. Caro
    September 11, 2012

    I can see Keira Knightley being nominated, sure, but I don’t see her winning at all. She has given better performances. Actually, she doesn’t deliver anything exceptionally different than her past performances. The only people who are generating major buzz and praise at TIFF right now are Jennifer Lawrence and Marion Cotillard. Amy Adams might be nominated for The Master if she delivers. I really don’t see Keira winning at all. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence from what I’ve been seeing on twitter and in reviews from critics.

  7. JJ
    September 11, 2012

    Brave? She’s not getting the reviews Jennifer Lawrence has been getting. I think KK needs to step away from Joe Write and period films and do something bold and different. She’s giving the same persformances over and over which won’t win her any oscars. It’s time to step out of that comfort zone and do something different KK.

  8. Xtine
    September 11, 2012

    I’d been hearing for over a year how this was finally going to be Keira Knightley’s year to win an Oscar. Not. She had high expectations even before she started filming this movie and to be honest, I wasn’t impressed with her performance in the film. Maybe that’s just me.

  9. phantom
    September 11, 2012

    Clearly a love/hate experience…the question is, will it get that crucial 5% LOVE from the Academy or not ? Divisive films like this could benefit greatly from that new rule.

    As far as Knightley goes, I think FOR NOW it is safe to assume, she will be a top5 contender in the end and will get the nomination. It will all come down to 3 factors

    - US reviews (she needs at least Never let me go – scores)
    - Academy screening (they need 5% to absolutely fall in love with the film)
    - Reception of yet-unseen contenders (Davis, Chastain, Mirren etc.)

  10. steve50
    September 11, 2012

    The Anna K role is to actresses what Hamlet is to the guys. I agree with @The Pope – anybody who takes on either is setting themselves up and that alone, therefore, makes them brave.

    I like the Wright/Knightley partnership – at least, I haven’t been disappointed yet – and I will definitely see this one.

  11. Russen
    September 11, 2012

    Agree 100% with Phantom. Everything in the BA race is still early to call. Sure J-Lawarence is getting raves, with many already calling her the winner, but it is still too early, and Lawrence has just as much factors going against her for the win as well. I am not saying that Knightley will win. I think the nomination will be her reward, but if she is getting write ups and praise like this, who knows. It all depends on the ampas taste this year. J-Lawrence could be another flavor of the month like Q. Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Knightley’s film hasnt opened in the US yet, and from what I heard and read, focus is doing a smart campaign for the film. Opening it late november in limited release with a full release near Christmas…where voting, and campaigning truly matters.

    However I love Lawarence and if she were our winner…great! I think she along with Knightley, Portman, and all those other girls with blossoming careers just goes to show you that these starletts dont always end up like Lindsay Lohan or other has beens. They continue to work on interesting projects with all the while keeping their private life normal and not have huge scandals on their hands.

    Again it is way too early to be predicting winners, hell even nominees as we havent seen everyone yet. But I agree with Phantom, AK needs to conquer those 3 things in order for Knightley to happen.

  12. phantom
    September 11, 2012

    tipsy, Jennifer Lawrence is getting rave reviews for sure, but first we should wait for her official category placement, because a lot of those rave reviews emphasized that she isn’t a lead but a brilliant supporting player in the film. I have no doubt she could pull off a lead nomination OR that a case against her lead status could be made convincingly, but still, at this very moment, there is some category confusion that needs to go away ASAP.

  13. GoOnNow
    September 11, 2012

    Whether she’s good in the film or not doesn’t seem to matter too much.

    What I have always thought would happen is already happening. The press is giving the performance THAT push.

  14. tipsy
    September 11, 2012

    I didn`t say JL will win. I just said that JL reviews are way better than KK`s. KK is called brave for nobody thinks she deserves accolades such as “best” “frontrunner”,etc. Now, those accolades don`t mean a win and as Phantom said we don`t even know JL`s placement. My point is that KK isn`t singled out as best of seen performences. other actresses, JL and MC, are.

    ” J-Lawrence could be another flavor of the month like Q. Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild. ”

    I`m sorry but what? Q. Wallis is a no real actress, just a talented kid discovered this year. She may turn into a successful actress. JL is a one time Oscar nominee and a leading lady in the biggest female-led franchise. THG is a thrid biggest movie domesticlaly and got her rave reviews. This sort of thing helps. I`m not syaing she may not miss a nomination but compariosn to a total newcomer who is also a kid doesn`t stand.

    KK can win her Oscar so we finally get done and over with it. JL is the future of movies so she`ll get recognition eventually. I don`t care and don`t want KK fnaboys to cry to their momas if brave-but-not-better-than_______(insert more acclaimed competitors) KK snuffs it again.

  15. Mark
    September 11, 2012

    http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/smashed/trailers/smashed-theatrical-trailer-30562909.html

    Here it is! Trailer for SMASHED! Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a revelation!

  16. AD
    September 11, 2012

    Well Tipsy there are a lot of people who think that JLaw doesn’t deserve to win or is not going to win but Marion Cotillard will. So what do you say to that? At this point there is no clear picture and lots of candidates and to each its own preference. And btw no one here is talking about a KK win, but a nomination.

  17. VVS
    September 11, 2012

    Jennifer LAwrence is so overrated anyway. How she ever got a nomination for Winter’s Bone is beyond me. All she did was just show up on set and give blank expressions.

  18. September 11, 2012

    I’m surprised to hear such praise for Keira in this role. I’ve always liked her, but I feel she’s been better before. She was better in Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, better in The Duchess, better in A Dangerous Method. I had mixed feelings about the film, though – maybe that’s because of or why I don’t think Keira has done her best work as Anna Karenina.

    But I was expecting her to enter the race, and it looks like she has. With responses like those, she’s sure to be a contender come awards season.

  19. Jake G!!!
    September 11, 2012

    Does anyone else want to help me campaign Anne Hathaway for The Dark Knight Rises? Anne really has given the best performance of the year!

  20. Russen
    September 11, 2012

    I think why alot of people are saying that Keira is brave in this performance, or for that matter, is getting great to good reviews is because you can see an evolution she has come as an actress. Some reviews point out that she is always good in Wright films, and this being her best out of the three she has been in. Sure people on these threads/boards/blogs have their opinions about her and the film, but the critics who have criticized her seem to be finding something great in this performance they havent seen before. Of course dont get me wrong, many to some reviews say that she was better in other films, but mind you, that was only a few. The rest, even negative to mixed on the film seem to be praising her! So I agree with GoOnNow in saying that the press is really going to be pushing her for this performance for a nomination.

    And lol Anne Hathaway while good in TDKR, nobody will remember her as CATWOMAN. Everyone will remember Michelle Pfieffer as Catwoman. Just like Greta Garbo will be remembered as Anna Karenina.

  21. g
    September 11, 2012

    I probably won’t be able to be unbiased in my comparison of Keira and Garbo, I love the original silent “Love”! Garbo was so beautiful she literally set the screen on fire, I just don’t see how any performance can top hers.

    I loved Keira in atonement and pride and prejudice, I’m sure she will have many other great roles in the future!

  22. Cline
    September 11, 2012

    While I agree that Knightley is not winning this, a nomination isn’t at all that unlikely considering the field. Sasha is right, this is one of the few films this year with a plot centering on woman, and that will undoubtedly be important. And this probably won’t be Knightley’s only bit of good ink.

    Here, Esquire is extremely enthusiastic:

    If she gets more notices like this, and the film does decently at the box office, who knows. To early to tell.

  23. AD
    September 11, 2012

    The link doesn’t work but here is the tidbit…
    “…In Knightley, we finally have an Anna Karenina for our times.”

    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/anna-karenina-toronto-review-12572320#ixzz26BxjJ5pW

  24. keifer
    September 11, 2012

    I’m not so sure about a nomination for Jennifer Lawrence. The only actress ever to be nominated in a sci-fi film was Signourney Weaver in “Aliens” – almost 30 years ago. It would be a tough nomination for Lawrence to pull off given the genre.

  25. Russen
    September 11, 2012

    Keifer, J-Lawrence is getting nominated for SilverLinings playbook, not Hunger Games. But many are confused as where she might be placed as some reviews say she is a strong supporting player, and others say she is lead. Category confusion could happen, but I think she will be nominated in lead, and possibly win. But again, it is way to early to predict winners. Nominees yes, but winners no. Its still too early, and who knows, maybe J-Lawrence is the flavor of the month just like Q.Wallis was last few months.

    Everything could change once December/January comes around

  26. jorge
    September 11, 2012

    as a fan of keira, she is gettin her second nomination for sure…and if she does smart moves with a right campaign she is winning… ala kate winslet (rewarded for another factors others than her best performance)

    jennifer lawrence will win but not now, isnt the right film to win for her or age

    marion cotillard is def not winning and her nomination is between her and emmanuelle riva

  27. tipsy
    September 11, 2012

    “you can see an evolution she has come as an actress.”

    Oh, the “he/she evolves” praise. That one`s thrown in when they can`t say flat out that someone`s great. There are child actors who get a real non-caveat praise from their first performence but this lady`s, like, 27 and acting seens teens or ytounger and she`s still evolving. Reminds me of all the excuses orlando Bloom was getting. “But he`s young!” From age 25 to 35 he was “young” and “unexperienced”. Just say so and so isn`t all that great. We get it.

    “Well Tipsy there are a lot of people who think that JLaw doesn’t deserve to win or is not going to win but Marion Cotillard will. So what do you say to that?”

    Honestly, I don`t want JL to win when competition is weak for that would create a blacklash and would taint her gold forever. I`m not like KK fans who are so desperate for KK nom/win they are counting on weak year to open a spot for her (which realy means she isn`t great and her fans know it but want award for the sake of one). I want JL to win over ultra-strong comeptition because she was the strongest of them all.

  28. Yayjesus
    September 11, 2012

    What’s so special about Keira Knightley? She has no range and that picture says ‘please nominate me’.

  29. Jason B
    September 11, 2012

    Anna Karenina was a bit emotional inert by the end, but it was a spectacle. If anything else, Wright will get a directing nom and the art direction will win without a doubt.

  30. keifer
    September 11, 2012

    Jason B –

    I also think Jacqueline Durran will be nominated (and probably win) for Best Costume Design for AK.

    I also smell a nomination for Best Cinematography as well for AK.

    No problem here with those either.

  31. Keifer
    September 11, 2012

    Yayjesus:

    Have you seen “The Duchess”?

    Have you seen “A Dangerous Method”?

    Have you seen “Atonement”?

    That’s what is so special about KK. She’s a wonderfully bright, beautiful and talented actress. She’s also very humble – when interviewed, she’s not “full of herself”, but talks about the projects she’s been involved in. She reminds me of Michelle Williams actually (very effacing).

  32. Jason B
    September 11, 2012

    @keifer

    I agree. Cinematography is very likely, although it’s the art direction and sets that really make it work. The one-shots in this film are more intricate than the one in Atonement on the beach. So, I hope AK sweeps the art direction categories. To the Wonder, thus far, should win cinematography. hands down. Second to The Master (which will likely win).

  33. alan of montreal
    September 11, 2012
  34. Craig Z
    September 11, 2012

    If you want to root for a performance you haven’t seen that’s cool. I do it all the time but I find you are being borderline condescending to those who didn’t like it. I don’t think that is something you should do if you haven’t seen it.

  35. Craig Z
    September 11, 2012

    Also Bryce needs to stop being so easily worked up. Calm down dude.

  36. Jerry
    September 11, 2012

    She is getting mixed reviews. Time and Esquire loved her but The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Hitfix were lukewarm.

  37. Russen
    September 12, 2012

    Again…critics don’t vote for Oscar nominations. If the ampas like the film she could easily get in. If they don’t then she won’t. People are getting so worked up on this blog/forum. Calm down. It’s way too early to be predicting wins or noms, we haven’t seen everybody!

  38. Pierre de Plume
    September 12, 2012

    I haven’t seen her performance in this film, but Knightly has the advantage of being not only attractive but quite intelligent.

  39. tipsy
    September 12, 2012

    “Knightly has the advantage of being not only attractive but quite intelligent.”

    That didn`t exactly help Christopher Nolan who is very attractive by director standars and very intelligent by all stadards. Especially Just sayin. AMPAS is more into trailer trash-to-Tinsel Town tottie type of stories. Those that propelled Swank to 2 Oscar wins.

  40. September 12, 2012

    Keira is SUPER superb and so is the movie! Just back from TIFF where it was my FAVORITE FILM! It will get nominated in alllll categories, which helps her. She’s in a strong best picture contender. Best Pic, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor(Jude Law), Best Adapted Screenplay(Tom Stoppard), Best Cinematography, Best Sets, Best Costumes, etc. etc. Keira’s got all that behind her!

    But Dame Maggie Smith has Harvey Weinstein! Uh-oh! She’s got two Oscars already, but she’s got HARVEY! And “Downtown Abbey” And she’s 80! The Academy’s median age…

    Also strong out of TIFF, Marion Cotillard and Laura Linney! It’s a race, ladies and gentle-person! It’s a race!

  41. Russen
    September 12, 2012

    Thanks for your input Stephen! :) glad you liked the film. Do you think the ampas will go for the stylization. I mean they did for Moulin Rouge.

  42. September 12, 2012

    Exactly!I don’t want to spoil just HOW they do it, exactly, but I can say that Tom Stoppard BRILLIANT, WITTY script is totally intact. He wrote not only “Shakespeare in LOve” but also “Coast of Utopia” which was a GIGANTIC trilogy of plays that this very much resembles.
    They involved the birth of Russian literature basically, so Stoppard is thoroughly steeped in this period, where the Russian upper classes were having an identity crisic and didn’t know if they were French or not. Or SHOULD be. Or should act like them.
    So this film is as French as it is Brtish as it is Russian.
    And Joe Wright is a total genius at this, as are his costume, det and cinematographic partners.
    Across the technicals it rocks!
    And Jude Law is unrecognizable as Anna’s nerdy husband who she is trying to get away from.
    As if anyone would want to run away from Jude Law! But you totally believe it.
    And Keira is beyond the beyond. She COULD win. She’ll definitely get nominated. Then it’s her v. Qu’venzhane V. Dame Maggie v. Dame Judi!

  43. To All
    September 14, 2012

    Thanks Stephen Holt for your reaction. I always trust your judgment. I can still recall a few years ago when you declared that Marion Cotillard will win for La Vie En Rose and everybody here at AD were against the idea. ;)

  44. Nic V
    September 14, 2012

    I always thought that Knightley was the perfect choice to reprise Anna K and the reviews I’ve read seem to hold to that concept. Jude Law gets some respectable notes in a few but as I thought from the beginning that Aaron Johnson was going to be thr one who was going to be out of his league has pretty much been reinforced. In fact the critics are not kind to him at all.

    Neil Smith of Total Film was not particularly kind to Mr. Johnson but then not one of the reviews I read were kind to him most were pretty clear that Johnson was not right for this role. This is what Neil Smith wrote about Mr. Johnson “…or that the peach-fuzzed Taylor-Johnson is as credible a beau as his beloved steed Frou-Frou.”

    I saw Dangerous Method and I’m sorry Knightley was just way over the top and if she’s reprising that in this then she won’t get a nomination. I suspect women are going to have drag their boyfriends and husbands to see this and from the few reviews I’ve read good luck with that. I think we have our first dud of the season.

    Yes there seems to be some innovations by Stoppard and Wright but here’s the deal you have an incredible book by an incredible author …the clue is don’t screw it up … don’t play with it …do it and bring something to it. I mean comments like it looked like a musical without the karakoe don’t bode well for the film.

  45. Russen
    September 14, 2012

    I think this will do fairly well at the box office. I mean Keira’s films with Joe Wright have been well recieved and did well at the box office. I think this one will too, but it wont break box office records. It will have a respectable box office which will in case wont deem it a dud or failure.

    I still keep coming back to Moulin Rouge. How alot of people loathed it at first, but then accepted it for what it was, and fell in love with it. Alot of people havent seen a film like this before so duh its going to cause some nerves to tighten. But if you think about it, Wright was inspired by Otto Pressenberger who did The Red Shoes and Black Adonis and when you see the trailer, and clips of AK you definitley see the influence. I think Keira could be nominated if she attracts the awards groups. Critics probably wont nominate her for critics prizes, but in reality when do critics prizes help vote for oscars…and again I will say it…Critics do not vote for oscars. They may influence, but its not a slam dunk. I think releasing AK in November to limited release and then full on release during the christmas holiday is a good decision. Globe noms are around the corner as well as sag noms and bafta noms, and then oscar noms. Keira’s name will or should still be in the mix by that time. And like somebody posted earlier, her role is a female centered role. NOT A SUPPORTING PLAYER…like J-Lawrence who I think may win this year. But then again, it is too early to be predicting winners hell, even nominees since we havent seen everyone yet.

  46. Kay12
    September 14, 2012

    I think its naive to be talking about Jennifer Lawrence in the comments. Why? What for? Jennifer Lawrence hasn’t been in a period film so what does she have to do with anything, she had a good hunger games performance sure but Knightley is on a whole different level. And Keira Knightley doesn’t need to step away from period films at all. Her acting in period films is exceptional and when she’s in regular modern day films her performances don’t get as much critical acclaim so the fact that she sticks with period pieces is just career common sense. I can’t say her performance in AK was good yet because it hasn’t opened in the USA just yet but I’ll never hold Jennifer Lawrence over Keira Knightley, nope, never.

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