- Last Updated: 11:10 AM, July 13, 2012
- Posted: 10:23 PM, July 12, 2012
In English, Hindi and Marwari, with English subtitles. Running time: 117 minutes. Rated R (sex, violence, drugs, profanity). At the Lincoln Plaza and the IFC Center.
England’s answer to Steven Soderbergh — the prolific and fearless Michael Winterbottom — who reimagined Thomas Hardy’s “The Mayor of Casterbridge” in the Old West in “The Claim,” now outsources Hardy’s “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” to contemporary India, with mixed results, in “Trishna.”
Famously filmed straight by Roman Polanski in 1979 with Nastassja Kinski as “Tess,” Hardy’s doomed heroine is now the poor but beautiful Trishna (Freida Pinto of “Slumdog Millionaire”), forced to go to work at a distant luxury hotel to support her family when her van-driver father is injured in an accident.
Winterbottom combines Hardy’s two male protagonists into the British-born Jay, who’s been conscripted to run the hotel owned by his ailing, blind father (Roshan Seth). Hired as a waitress, Trishna puts aside her aspirations as a dancer to become the covert lover of the class-conscious Jay (Riz Ahmed), with their relationship increasingly fraught because of her guilt, pregnancy and abortion, as well as his growing brutality and duplicity.
The Bollywood-inflected “Trishna” — sexually explicit in ways that would never be countenanced in a genuine mainstream Indian movie — is most effective as it portrays its heroine shuttling back and forth between squalor and palatial wealth. But Pinto’s lack of dramatic range (she basically has two expressions) and an awkward third act do not provide a solid foundation for Hardy’s tragic ending.