Let us begin with a dignified keysmash: ashjfdkilargajnergf!rugahergaqr5t3w453 and a brief moment to contemplate how intensely sexually frustrating an experience that was because holy fuck there were so many sex scenes (though not all of them were comfortable to watch) and just him, generally being charming and seductive and ugh, your face, kid, I cannot deal with it. (Had to bite my fist so many times; my date was confused, I was aroused, it was a wild old time.)
BUT ASIDE FROM THAT: I honestly went to perve on Riz and because the soundtrack was beautiful and had few feelings on the story at all because lol, what is a Hardy. Though it seems "what is a Hardy" was Winterbottom's approach also; it was a pretty loose adaptation, playing wildly with plot and twisting Alec and Angel into one character which actually made the plot less frustrating for me in some ways? It made it feel less like the whole story was constructed as a way to humiliate her character and more like it was a depiction of a very twisted relationship, the dynamics of which are obviously coloured by the society/gender structure it is set within?
Other things I loved:
+ The scenes in the start with Jay and his friends and their casual banter about tourism and how he grapples with the language and the extent to which he's an outsider but we enter the film on his grounds and then slip into Trishna's/the villages's conciousness. Also, just everything about early Jay and how charming and smiley and young Riz seemed, making the eventual transformation even more jarring. (Lol, early!Jay reading White Mughals. I see what you did there, Winterbottom.)
+ Jay's father, god, but I thought that was a good touch. I thought he was a hotel guest at first with the loud English accent and "IT'S SO LOVELY TO GET AWAY FROM EUROPEAN CITIES".
+ The music, ugh, so fucking gorgeous and thematically perfect, I need this soundtrack in my life; also, the dancing. Frieda acts best with her face and her body and that just became really potent in the way she carried herself and how that changed over the course of the story; the dance where he first sees her, her dancing in front of the television, the first classes she takes in Bombay, dancing for Jay, etc. The story played out in her body and it was stunning.
+ FRIEDA'S FACE; the way she played it out came across as more than just a meek, pliable girl to me? Like, her motivations aren't crystal clear, she isn't simply being manipulated from the start; why does she choose to go to Bombay when she has just run away from him? And why still when he asks her to go back to Rajastan and she could gamble a future in the city with her dancing and new found contacts? I found it thrilling and painful and compelling, certainly not frustrating as one reviewer described it. I think its incredibly odd and reductive to narrow down her whole character to just meek when there are clearly a myriad of factors playing in to her choices.
+ Cinematography, holy fuck; I loved the clean, crisp documentary style it was shot in, completely veering away from any kind of fancy lighting or kitsch camera tricks. The landscape and varying geography that the film was working with was kind of allowed to speak for itself and relatively untampered with (though never merely a backdrop, the setting was incredibly strong.)
+ The fact that the narrative shied away from any strong conflict with Trishna's family. The first scene where her father spots her getting off from the rickshaw with the boys made me nervous because it could so easily have gone down the route and I was expecting him to but he didn't and it was all quite tight and reined, obviously choosing a narrative of repressed tension as opposed to a more traditional tack of South Asian hysteria. (Which really, people who are calling this film melodramatic; its incredibly pared down and tame for the beast of a setting it is taking on - a Victorian novel set primarily in rural India. What were you expecting, sirs and madams.)
+ The whole last sequence at the Rajastani hotel was disturbing and stunning in equal measure; the repetition with the number of times she brought him his meals brought to mind the earlier riff of her working in other situations, manual work day after day and the way it painfully and catastrophically devolved; that crumbling palace and its history and the story of the sixteen wives and Trishna trapped in the dress and Jay reading the Kama Sutra; the buildup in that part gave it an almost mythic quality when she stabbed him and it felt like total catharsis as opposed to a reaction to a singular unforgivable instance. I honestly would have been fine with it ending just there and found some of her reunion with her family a bit heavy and unnecessary and too much of a reprisal to her going home after the first hotel but in retrospect, the closing scene, the desert, fuck me but that was jarring.
CONCLUSION: not that it wasn't painful to watch but I thought it was really good? This is one woman's opinion.