Having now seen it, here is what I think:
While yes, on an artsiness scale the film would be a 10, it wasn't hallucinogenic artsiness. It wasn't like Moulin Rouge, for example. That movie is a bit eerie and dizzying and maybe it would be better if you were high as a kite while watching it. Anna Karenina is essentially set in a theater, with doors opening to new scenes and bedrooms on stage and rafter hooks and chains shown above a ball dancing room. While it may not be realistic, each transition from scene to scene is tasteful and often surprising.
Having not ever read the book or even known the plot, it was a bit confusing to know who was who at first (is Kitty a cousin, or is she Dolly's sister, or is she a princess??) but this didn't hinder my basic comprehension of what was going on. My favorite scene in the whole movie (and also the sweetest) is when Kitty and Levin are talking to each other with a mixture of whispers and alphabet blocks. It is so intimate, so secretive even though they are in a room with others, so loving -- I could tangibly feel the knot in their throats and their beating hearts as they discovered how much they deeply care for one another. That scene alone makes the movie worth seeing.
As for Anna and her lover (Vronsky... I had to look that up), I think they played their parts well. I could never quite get past the fact that Vronsky's hair was an obviously weird blondish color, and his mustache was....ummmmm....searching for the right word.... gross? It was not flattering. So that made it hard for me to understand exactly why Anna was so completely and utterly drawn to him -- aside from the fact that he certainly was dripping with sensuality and looked at Anna like she was ice-cream and he was the spoon (quoting a line from The Jane Austen Book Club.) Keira Knightley does a good job of capturing both Anna's charismatic sweetness and apparent psychosis.
For those who have read the book, I know you will have much to think about in comparing it to the movie. Having now known the ending, I'd like to watch the movie again as Jenn told me there is a lot of foreshadowing, which I completely missed. Forgiveness either given or withheld is strung from the very first scene until the last, and so much could be discussed regarding this theme. And of course, there is love. Love in all kinds of forms. If you have seen any of the movie posters like the one of Kitty and Levin above, you will know what I mean. Note Tolstoy's quote at the top of the poster...
Last but certainly not least, the jewelry and costumes alone make this film a must-see. Even I noticed Anna's jewelry -- this is saying a lot because I am often the world's most unobservant nincompoop. Granted, you would probably have to be blind to not see this:
Russia is freezing.
Bottom line: go see Anna Karenina. I wouldn't have written my thoughts down if it wasn't still on my mind, so it clearly isn't a movie that you can easily forget. In fact, I think a movie is a let down if you aren't thinking about it the next day.
And I'm certainly thinking about it.