Flash forward some months, and the Keira Knightley costume drama, out in theaters today, looks like anything but a sure thing.
Taking in Anna Karenina's awards-season stock:
Best Actress? Probably Not: The gaming sites have Knightley in the discussion, but nowhere near the top five. The pundits at GoldDerby.com are more bullish, but take note: As AwardsDaily's Sasha Stone writes, "By most estimations, Jennifer Lawrence has the Oscar race…sewn up" for Silver Linings Playbook.
Total Snub? Not Likely: Writing for Indiewire, Oliver Lyttelton makes good cases for the gilded Anna Karenina rating nominations for costume and production design and cinematography. (Supporting evidence: Sarah Greenwood took honors for production design at last month's Hollywood Film Awards.)
So, What Happened? Everybody knew Anna Karenina was a costume drama. Everybody knew Academy voters love costume dramas. What everybody (read: us) didn't know was that Anna Karenina wasn't just any costume drama—as Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum put it in her lukewarm review, director Joe Wright "ma[de] the radical artistic choice to tell the story as if it were being enacted by players on a stage." By the time the film played at the make-it-or-break-it Toronto Film Fest, the New York Post's Lou Lumenick warned the unconventional take was "guaranteed to divide audiences." (And critics, too—its scores are middling right now at both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.)
Is Anna Karenina Cursed? Any tale that's been told and retold for more than 100 years is doing just fine, thankyouverymuch. But, for what it's worth, the meaty title role has never proved to be an Oscar winner, not for Sophie Marceau, not for Vivien Leigh, not for Greta Garbo.
Why Knightley Shouldn't Be Counted Out: For one thing, she's got an in with voters, having been nominated for 2005's Pride & Prejudice (also directed by Wright). For another, she's the anti-Joaquin Phoenix. "The wonderful thing about being a part of [awards season] is that it's basically a way of people saying, 'We like your movie and we found it exciting,'" she gushed to the Huffington Post. " You can't really ask for more than that."