The speediness that often leads Michael Winterbottom to forge a quicksilver cinema that no one else can touch (perfect example: last year’s dazzling The Trip) also has a way of leeching depth from his more ambitious script choices. Trishna is the director’s third go-around adapting the work of novelist Thomas Hardy, but unlike his fierce Jude (1996) and The Claim (2000), Winterbottom’s reconfigured Tess of the d’Urbervilles suffers from a strange emotional remoteness—even as the vivid colors of a modernizing northwestern India leap off the screen.
Don’t blame Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto, gorgeous and blank as ever; her Trishna, romanced by relocating British businessman Jay (Riz Ahmed), might have benefitted from an actor a touch more earthly, but the character is goddessy to begin with. Rather, the diffidence here is ingrained in the pacing and plot: Winterbottom hardly seems roused by the forbidden affair, and even a Bollywood-style dance number feels halfhearted. Sumptuous on the surface, Trishna is also infused with bumping, atmospheric music—contributions come from Amit Trivedi, as well as Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love composer Shigeru Umebayashi—but the plot complexifies into a lax, autopiloted mess. Winterbottom’s risks are welcome; it may be time, though, to invest more heart instead of head.
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