Well, I can cross that off my bucket list.

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to read (or rather, felt I should read) Anna Karenina, Tolstoy’s sweeping Russian epic that tells the tale of an aristocratic Russian woman doomed by her extra-marital dalliance with an affluent Army officer.

The book’s really long, so instead, I went to see the new movie of the same name starring Keira Knightly and Jude Law as Anna and her husband, Karenin. Aaron Taylor-Johnson rounds out the love triangle as Count Vronsky–Anna’s lover.

All things considered, I’m glad I invested two-plus hours in the movie instead of the weeks it would have likely taken me to plow through the book.

Perhaps it was the direction, reminiscent of Moulin Rouge‘s rather bizarre, surreal staging, or maybe it was the fact that the object of Anna’s affections was boyish looking and completely uninspiring, or it could be that instead of feeling sympathy for Anna, I just wanted to smack her by the end of the movie, but Anna Karenina left me wanting…something else.

Director Joe Wright sets the action on a stage–literally. A stage curtain goes up at the movie’s beginning and alternately throughout, the actors are seen entering and leaving a stage, occasionally clattering around backstage scaffolding and props as the story unfolds. I’m sure it was an attempt at doing something different and artistic with an oft-told tale, but it was just distracting.

Far more engaging were the times when the characters were, inexplicably, not on stage, and left to actually move the story along without the inserted artifice.

Even then, though, I found the secondary plots far more interesting, chief among them a budding romance between a young relative of Anna’s–Princess Kitty–and a suitor Kitty initially refuses due to her own crush on Vronsky. Also engaging was Matthew Macfadyen as Anna’s dallying brother, whose marriage Anna initially saves by advising his wife, Dolly, to forgive him after Dolly uncovers his affair with a nanny.

There’s a lot of fooling around going on in Anna Karenina.

As far as the main plot went, my sympathies were firmly on the side of Anna’s husband, a somewhat bland yet kind and loyal fellow played by Jude Law. The poor guy kept forgiving Anna despite her repeated public shaming of him and herself.

The costumes are glorious and Oscar-worthy. And if you’re into high drama and inexplicable passion, maybe Anna Karenina is for you. Perhaps I’m too much of a realist, but the entire affair seemed overwrought and delusional.

If you’ve ever been tempted to tackle Tolstoy and his saga, you might want to consider the film. As for me, the book will remain firmly planted on the shelf. (Before you decide, check out the trailer below!)

Have you seen Anna Karenina? Tell us what you think! Click “comments” below and share!