NEW THIS WEEK
-- A TRULY GORGEOUS FILM/THEATER HYBRID THAT NEVER LOSES TRACK OF THE EMOTIONAL CORE OF TOLSTOY'S STORY:
"ANNA KARENINA" R, Limited Release -- Only the most romantic and literary-minded high-schoolers 16 and older, and most of them girls, will be enthralled by this ravishing film. Director Joe Wright tells the tragic love story, closely based on Leo Tolstoy's novel, in a way that seamlessly blends theater and film. And he never lets this adventurous style overwhelm the emotions that fuel the narrative, scripted by the playwright Tom Stoppard. Much of the film literally takes place on a stage in a huge theater, complete with candle footlights and huge set pieces trundled on and off. Occasionally the action moves into the natural world. It is 1874 in St. Petersburg, capital of Imperial Russia. Anna (Keira Knightley) is a great beauty and a loving mother, married to a staid high-level official, Karenin (Jude Law). She travels to Moscow to visit her brother, Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen), in an effort to reconcile her philandering sibling with his wife Dolly (Kelly Macdonald). Dolly's younger sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander) rejects a proposal by Oblonsky's true-blue friend Levin (Domhnall Gleeson), because she is in love with Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a dashing army officer. Anna dances with Vronsky at a ball and, before poor Kitty's eyes, falls in love with him. They start an affair back in Petersburg. Eventually rejected by her husband and society, barred from seeing her son, devastated when Vronsky's love dims, Anna throws herself in front of a train. Levin and Kitty recover from their heartbreaks to find love together. And life goes on.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Anna's famous suicide and her sex scenes with Vronsky are highly impressionistic. The love scenes are passionate and steamy, but never quite explicit. A horse is hurt during a race and has to be shot. Characters drink and smoke incessantly.
-- A LIKABLY ECCENTRIC ROMANTIC COMEDY ABOUT TWO PEOPLE STRUGGLING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS AND WINNING:
"SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK" R, Limited Release -- Uncomfortable depictions of mental illness make this deliciously offbeat, subtly acted romantic comedy (based on Matthew Quick's novel) iffy for teens younger than, say, 16. The profanity-laced dialogue is less of an issue for most older high-schoolers. Bradley Cooper plays the troubled Pat, a former teacher whose mother (Jacki Weaver) picks him up from a state prison and psychiatric institution as the film opens. He has served an eight-month sentence, and he's under a restraining order to stay away from his estranged wife (Brea Bee). We learn that Pat found her in the shower with a colleague of his. A heretofore undiagnosed bipolar patient, he overreacted more than a little. Now under treatment, he is still not in control of his illness, and his dad (Robert De Niro), a semi-retired bookmaker who places bets on their beloved Philadelphia Phillies, worries that Pat has come home too soon. In fact, Pat's unscheduled outbursts attract a policeman. Things change for the better -- but not immediately -- after Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence of the PG-13-rated "Hunger Games"), the sister-in-law of a friend. A widow whose cop husband died in mysterious circumstances, Tiffany confesses to Pat that she dealt with her grief psychotically, too. Their relationship begins on an argumentative, even harassing, note. Even so, Tiffany talks Pat into pairing with her for a dance contest. They start rehearsing. Pat's dad bets on them -- not to win.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The "Silver Linings ... " script bristles with profanity and includes a rude hand gesture, and a scene in which strangers hurl ethnic slurs. The film shows brief toplessness and a strongly implied but nonexplicit shower sex scene. Tiffany talks about her extreme promiscuousness after her husband died. She and Pat talk about their many prescription drugs. Some characters gamble and drink.
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-- OK FOR KIDS 8 AND OLDER:
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