We gave it a C
The feral, cougar-eyed actor Michael Gambon plays Fyodor Dostoyevsky — after Shakespeare, the premier literary trailblazer of the modern mind — and the staggering folly of Karoly Makk’s film The Gambler is that it lays out his art and his life and comprehends almost nothing of either. Gambon does proficient rumpled-genius shtick, but he’s too refined to evoke Dostoyevsky’s recklessness — the lust for extremes, for catharsis in self-destruction. Set in 1866, the movie follows the mad creative binge during which the author, facing a deadline of just 27 days, wrote ”The Gambler” with the assistance of Anna (Jodhi May), the 20-year-old stenographer who would become his assistant, muse, and, finally, his wife. What’s lost in this stuffed-and-mounted production is the passion for life as gambling — never more so than when the film cuts to dramatizations of the novel itself, which play like remainders from the Merchant Ivory boutique: existentialism made tidy.