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The Career Progression of Freida Pinto, From 'Slumdog' to 'Trishna': Auteur's Leading Lady or Shallow Ingenue?

Features
by Sophia Savage
February 16, 2012 4:21 PM
7 Comments
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"Trishna"
"Trishna"

Since Freida Pinto and Dev Patel broke out with Danny Boyle's Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire," the real-life couple have had slightly different career paths. Pinto's had the boost of beauty endorsements (L'Oreal) and magazine covers, and it's easier to find roles for a beautiful ethnically-ambiguous ingenue than a quirky Indian man (because one can be made into a commodity, the other can't; ironically Patel is British-born and Pinto is from India).

"Slumdog Millionaire"
"Slumdog Millionaire"

While Patel has supporting roles in "The Last Airbender," "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (out May 4) and "Cherry" (which just debuted at Berlin), Pinto has been more high profile playing beautiful but shallow second fiddle characters in Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "Immortals." But she failed to prove her acting chops as leading lady in Julian Schnabel's "Miral." Michael Winterbottom's modern retelling of Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles," "Trishna" (out May 18; new trailer) is her best opportunity to date to prove that her obvious charm and beauty has substance. Reviews out of Toronto have been generally positive, while hesitant to compliment more than her looks.

"Immortals"
"Immortals"

It will be an uphill battle for audiences to appreciate more than Pinto's looks, since they seem to be the basis of her casting (she was a model in Mumbai before Boyle discovered her). At least she's captured the eye of some auteur directors (Allen, Winterbottom, Schnabel), though it's worth taking into acount their use of beautiful actresses (think Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" for the Scarlett Johansson-Penelope Cruz kiss, and Winterbottom's "The Killer Inside Me" for the graphic bashing of Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba). With Tarsem Singh's "Immortals," Pinto seemed woefully objectified by cast and crew, on camera and off. She's not another beauty stuck in the B or C-movie objectification; it's a slightly "higher-brow" objectification in which there's still opportunity to find a voice - but will she?

(Here are a few disturbing reminders about the state of women and gender in film: Example A, Example B, Example C.)

Check out reviews for "Trishna" and trailers for both Pinto and Patel's films.

THR:
"Winterbottom is less interested in echoing precise events from the late-Victorian novel than he is in exploring how love can be poisoned by class divisions, even in a modern, urbanized environment. Jay evidently sees himself as an evolved man, but never treats Trishna as an equal, underestimates her complexity and remains insensitive to his growing humiliation of her when he returns from England,..As easy as they both are on the eyes, Pinto and Ahmed are more limited in their expressiveness. Still, the restraint of the performances feeds nicely into what’s overall quite a gentle tone, even if what should be a shattering conclusion is not as affecting as it might have been."

Guardian:
"Like Polanski's 'Tess,' Winterbottom's heroine is rather passive, a woman who lets things happen to her, and for many, the gorgeous but woefully reactive Trishna will be frustratingly meek. Likewise, Ahmed's Jay, a nice guy who transforms somewhere along the way into a boorish bully, will be a test of an audience's sympathy."

Variety:
"The latter third of 'Trishna's' tale feels heavy-handed in its attempts to orchestrate the desired emotional response. Sudden and brutal, the tragic story's climactic murder achieves what the helmer failed to do in 'The Killer Inside Me,' shocking auds through sheer intensity (and proving that perhaps the strategy wasn't as misogynistic as Winterbottom's critics first assumed)."

Telegraph:
"Winterbottom’s script was apparently improvised in part. This allows for a spontaneous feel; but it fails to nail some of the plot’s complexity. The casting is a problem, too."

TwitchFilm:
"Think of it as the anti-Slumdog Millionaire; the film takes a real yet harsh view not only of Indian gender relations, but the continued place of women, especially the poor, as second-class citizens. India here is both beauty and terrible, a place where the divide between rich and poor is incredibly pronounced, and the poor have little or no option but to follow the will of the rich, especially when the poor is a woman."

7 Comments

  • vyas | May 7, 2012 7:04 PMReply

    frieda pinto is a pretty indian woman.. that's all i can say for sure. she got lucky with slumdog --- the movie and the story is fantastic, but she is little more than a model in it. the reason she has been getting opportunities is because she is pretty and because she does not have an indian sounding name. if her name were sangeeta sivramkrishnan, do you think she would be doing the movies she is doing? pinto can't even act. she should stick to modeling -- putting her impressive bone structure on display without have to say anything.

  • Nordrik Caser | March 18, 2012 6:58 PMReply

    poor actress and ordinary girl too. can't understand why everyone think she is the most beautiful indian actress ever. she doesn't have the kind of beauty angelina jolie does or even india's very own aishwarya rai bahchan.

  • Rajiv | March 18, 2012 6:55 PMReply

    She will not last in Hollywood. Sorry but you need to show some talent at some point. She will never be given great roles like what Natalie Portman or Michelle Williams usaully get. I saw Miral and she was awful. I also don't see the hype over her looks. She is kinda average looking. This movie looks similar to Miral and if she couldn't pull that role off, then she won't do well with this one.

  • LeonRaymond | February 16, 2012 5:36 PMReply

    These roles don't challenge her to come out, as a Director my self I would Bust her ass wide open and bring shit out of her not seen on screen. She is giving what these guys let her give, take her out of her comfort zone. Make her do a film that got Jack shit to do with being from India, put her in a hard worn Urban setting that requires her to rip shit up and then you will see her acting chops. They are being timid with her and stepping back and letting her beauty lead the way. That was tried with NATASHA KINSKI and they ran in to trouble at first. Put her Ass in there with Angela Bassett!!!!

  • Sean McGann | February 23, 2012 9:14 AM

    I thought she was given the opportunity in Schnabel's Miral but she never produced much (maybe down to external factors). She was ok but she was lacking that something to truly carry the film.

  • Anon | February 16, 2012 4:41 PMReply

    It would help if Freida had some actual acting talent. Unfortunately she has shown the same two expressions in every movie so far. Some people are "directors' actors' and give good performances only with good direction but Freida has worked with big name talented directors with no improvement.

    She should just stick with modeling and looking pretty since obviously the passion for acting is not there.

  • Shilps | February 19, 2012 4:38 AM

    Agree absolutely that Freida Pinto is very attractive but clearly cannot act for toffee. Most of us Indians are pleased that she has found success on a global stage but none of us can fathom why. Any of our top 10 Bollywood actresses are more beautiful than her - and some of then can even act !!

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