Release date: July 20, 2012 (NY/LA: July 13)
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Based on the novel “Tess of the d’Ubervilles” by: Thomas Hardy
Cast: Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Roshan Seth
Running Time: 117 minutes
Exiting the movie theater after viewing Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna, a simple question occurs: “Why bother?” Because in this primarily unscripted adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1891 Victorian novel “Tess of the d’Ubervilles,” while the film is set in modern India, with that country’s vibrant hues marinating every frame … the story itself is utterly drained of color. As well as flavor, heat and life.
In the original Victorian novel, Hardy examines a young rural woman through the prism of a restrictive class-based society. Though Tess is a good-hearted girl who tries to do right by her family, she’s victimized by the self-righteous rigidity of English social morality of the 1870s. Cut to modern India, where the Tess character, renamed Trishna (Freida Pinto) has had some schooling, is multi-lingual but still bows to the demands of her dominating father. Unlike the novel in which the heroine causes an accident, here it’s Trishna’s father who falls asleep while driving (a jeep rather than a horse-driven wagon). Riding in the back of the jeep, Trishna sustains a broken arm – but the severity of the father’s injuries are such that he can no longer work. And it’s up to eldest daughter Trishna to support the family.
Cue the rich, handsome stranger (Riz Ahmed’s Jay) that Trishna had recently met, providing financial rescue by offering her well-paid employment at one of his father’s upscale tourist hotels. Jay is obviously enamored of her and after some plot contrivances, the couple winds up sharing a love nest in Mumbai. When she confesses that her parents had forced her to have an abortion after he impregnated her – the first time he seduced her – his idealized romantic feelings change. He abandons her only to eventually take her back, putting her to work at another hotel as a housekeeper/waitress by day, and as his personal sex slave by night or, rather, anytime he wants.
This is a maddening reinvention of the Hardy story (and the ensuing 1979 Roman Polanski film Tess) in which the heroine is caught between two lovers, good Angel and demonic Alec. Here, Winterbottom blends the two male characters into one, without allowing much in terms of exploration … and so the initially kind lover Jay, encouraging Trishna to take hotel management classes, enthused by her dancing, devolves into a callous sadist.
[For the full review and rating on doddle, please click here]