Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina

Of all the egregious fashion spreads and sops to cultural intimidation and middlebrow guilt that have been derived from highly respected 19th- and 20th-century novels over the past few years—as dubious a cycle of “art” movies as I can think of—this has got to be the dumbest and most offensive. Writer-director Bernard Rose's compost heap of arch poses from the Tolstoy novel has absolutely none of the elements that make the book memorable or even worth reading; for starters, forget about the opening lines about happy and unhappy families, Vronsky's toothache after Anna's suicide, and Levin's exhilaration in the fields. In fact, Levin is now the tale's narrator, even though a good half of the plot has little to do with him—the parallel stories in Tolstoy's novel are now parallel only in the sense that unrelated books shelved together are—and even the inspired notion of casting Alfred Molina in the part can't make up for what he's called upon to say and do. The disastrous casting decision for Anna is Sophie Marceau, complete with incomprehensible French accent, and Sean Bean plays Vronsky as if he wishes nobody would notice, a sentiment I can sympathize with. Occasional and seemingly arbitrary snippets of writing and dialogue are given in Russian, apparently to remind us that this isn't a story about people speaking English, and the flourish of handwriting at the end is supposed to make us think that Levin is simply Tolstoy's stand-in. I'd give a lot to forget that this movie ever existed. With Mia Kirshner, James Fox, and Danny Huston.

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