Director Joe Wright and writer Tom Stoppard have worked up a very different "Karenina," one percolating with stylized staging and waggish humor. At the beginning, it seems too clever for its own good - particularly the self-conscious staginess of Wright's setting the piece inside an ornate theater, suggesting visually that Imperial Russian society acted, as much as lived, their lives. Eventually, though, this "Anna" settles into some moving drama. Much of the credit must go to Keira Knightley and Jude Law. Wright devotes loving close-ups to Knightley, and she responds with haunted expressiveness and quivering passion. (And, really, she has never looked more gorgeous, with great attention paid by the costume, hair and makeup folks.) Jude Law is a study in restraint as her husband, his composure only belied by the emotions flickering in his eyes. The big disappointment here is Aaron Taylor-Johnson. He makes virtually no impression as Count Vronsky. To understand why Anna is swept away, you need a Vronsky with at least a spark of charisma.
- KRISTINA DORSEY