“The maid, the single lady, and the courtesan… which one are you?”
What happens when you combine a classic novel & modern-day India? You get Trishna. Director Michael Winterbottom’s take on Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles explores a love story that starts great but ends up getting with darker as the relationship progresses. Trishna received fairly positive reviews after being screened in the Toronto and Tribeca Film Festivals. Does it live up to the hype?
The movie follows Trishna (Freida Pinto), a young woman trying help out her poverty-stricken family the best that she can. In one of her jobs to help support the family, she meets Jay (Riz Ahmed), the charming son of a wealthy hotel owner. After the two hit it off, Jay is immediately infatuated. When the family Jeep crashes resulting in Trishna’s father’s being injured, Jay offers to ease their financial burden by offering Trishna a high paying job at his family’s hotel. As she feels the pressure of her family’s financial trouble in addition to being smitten by Jay’s charms causes Trishna to accept the job. What she doesn’t know that she will soon do things that are not in her official job description.
On schedule, Trishna showcases a brilliant performance from Freida Pinto. Here, she is very un-Slumdog like as she portrays a young lady who is constantly trapped by her circumstances. Whether the circumstances are caused by her family’s poverty or her relationship, she is able to convey a sense of internal struggle through her facial reactions. Riz Ahmed’s performance of Jay was very intriguing and appropriate. When the tone shifts halfway through the movie, Ahmed makes the shifting appear seamless, as he gives a very deep performance that will make you appreciate his acting throughout the movie. However, the chemistry between Pinto & Ahmed is pretty hit or miss, which seems acceptable for the context of the story. The screen composition in Trishna is very well done. Marcel Zyskind, the film’s cinematographer, created very dynamic images that really show off the beauty and elegance of India.
While Trishna boasts great lead acting to the backdrop of glorious shot arrangement, the overall story & reasoning is very chaotic & unbalanced. When I give my opinion on films, I try to avoid giving away plot points & movie endings. And while I plan on maintaining that, I will choose my words very carefully.
I went in expecting quality verbal exchanges between Trishna & Jay, as the film was touted as “A Haunting Exploration of Emotional Dependence” by the London Evening’s Charlotte O’Sullivan. Instead, there were fragments of a brilliant story mingled with severe character/plot holes, gratuitous non-nudity sex scenes can be intense, and tone shifts that move so quickly, they can cause whiplash. This movie deals with issues such as poverty, desperation, as well as some darker, deeper issues that may be too complicated or inappropriate for teens [let alone kids.] As much as I tried to get into the movie, I clearly remember having this thought run through my head; “When I get home, I’m going to have some leftover chicken & rice in the fridge.” When you start thinking about leftovers during a movie, you know your movie is in trouble. While there were a couple of visual & narrative metaphors that I enjoyed watching (and I LOVE me some of those!), it was ultimately tainted by this story that seems to have lost his way many times through the movie.
Trishna is proof that style and a big name (especially a pretty face) will never be enough carry a movie with a flimsy & very passive story. While it has great acting & cinematographic work, it seems that the story and dialogue fell off to the wayside. When I first started this movie blog, I mentioned Trishna as an honorable mention in my summer bucket list post (click to see the full post, “The 10 Summer Movies of 2012 You Should Check Out”) I’m sad to say that I found myself greatly disappointed in this movie. C-
[P.S.: I felt that Ruby Sparks was a better & more realistic exploration on emotional dependence & relationships definitely worth checking out! Click here to see the full review of Ruby Sparks here!]
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