I suppose I should apologize for the upcoming RANT which I feel got way longer than I had originally intended it to. (Sorry, Keira fans!)
Good grief. I cannot imagine Keira Knightley as Anna. She's so wispy as an actress and has no range or depth.
I watched the end of her Pride and Prejudice the other day because there was nothing else on. I thought I would give her another chance. Her pinched mouth and dull face just bugged me. She was completely out acted by Mathew MacFayden and Rosamund Pike. She is far too girlish and modern to play these classics well. What should be brilliance or grand passion always looks to me like a nice, not-too-bright schoolgirl's attempt at acting. She brings nothing to her roles, except her looks, and so to me, she just seems callow.
I hate to say I also then watched her in a film called The Duchess. What can I say? the costumes and sets caught my eye, and I was trying to cut her some slack, see what was so great about her.
She was marginally better in this film, but she was surrounded by fine actors, for the most part. She was able to work some emotion, but the character was supposed to be far too charming and intelligent for her to handle in the later scenes. The film itself could have been a remake of Marie Antoinette with Norma Shearer and Ty Power. in the early virginal scenes, Knightley is fine, because that's what she always is. The Duchess is later supposed to shine, to captivate all of England, but there are only two scenes where we see this, and they are highly edited. In fact, they boil down to two lines spoken by the actress. I'm sure this is because Knightley is incapable of more than a moment of strength or real charisma. She's just a nice girl who could be a cheerleader or something. In the middle scenes of The Duchess, she looks as if she might faint with the tremendous work involved in transforming herself to a woman of the world, but she is not transformed, she still seems like she is in high school winning prom queen.
I don't think it's her fault, she's been rushed into all these films, and so far, they have worked, because her directors have continually played the youth card, similar to Keanu Reeves being good because he's cast as callow youths. I don't mind him, but don't force me to accept Keanu as Hamlet, or worse, King Lear. Well, I might accept him as Hamlet if the movie was done right.... well you understand I think.
So anyway, I was about to turn away, but Ralph Fiennes held my interest, he was actually fascinating, as was Hayley Atwell, both in very much more nuanced performances than Knightley could muster. And there was Charlotte Rampling! I thought, well, this is actually getting interesting, but Fiennes and Atwell were only there to serve as an excuse to drive Knightley into the arms of Dominic Cooper, who seems just as bland as Knightley. And Rampling was at most, a cameo. And off we go, not following the interesting characters, but following the stupid love story between the lightweights.
I think what most bothers me about these newer 'classic' films llately is that the studio heads think that just because someone is young and British, that automatically makes them a good actor. It's rather insulting. They're so concerned with box office draw that they bowdlerize great novels or stories and put that 'gorgeous young thing' spin on it, disregarding whether the person fits the story or not, or whether the leads have chemistry or not. LOOKS = CHEMISTRY. Well, that isn't true. It seems to be more about 'selling', rather than actually trying to present something of quality, which leads to all sorts of mistakes in presentation. They cut important bits out, and try to add sexiness, or goth it up to appeal to the Twilight crowd. Or add special effects... that'll pack em in! At least ten years ago, if there was a classic being filmed, it was because someone genuinely wanted to tell the story. Now I think it's that they don't have any more ideas.