Freida Pinto did not walk the red carpet with the rest of the cast of Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, his new film which premiered in the Out of Competition section of the Cannes International Film Festival last week. But that’s actually a good thing—the 25-year-old Indian actor is much too busy shooting for Tarsem Singh’s forthcoming film Immortals in Canada. In other news, she has the title role in Julian Schnabel’s Israel-based film Miral, which will release later this year.
Poised: Pinto wasn’t seen at this year’s Cannes film festival, but she has made many public appearances in the US and Europe. Mike Marsland / WireImage
In You Will Meet…, which is set in London, Pinto plays Dia, a sultry Indian girl who becomes the muse of an American writer called Roy, played by Josh Brolin, who is struggling to finish his book. Roy spends his days gazing longingly at his beautiful neighbour. When they finally meet, he falls madly in love. But Roy is married and Dia is engaged, and therein begins the classic Woody Allen-esque romantic pastiche.
The film has an ensemble cast that includes Anthony Hopkins and Naomi Watts and Pinto is reportedly not on screen long enough to show much texture. Film critic and writer Anupama Chopra, who saw the film at Cannes, says Pinto is mostly required to look beautiful, and she does that increasingly well.
Sunil Doshi, founder and director of the Turner Broadcasting-owned Indian television channel Lumière Movies, can’t stop gushing over Pinto’s Woody Allen avatar. Over the phone from Cannes, he tells us Pinto is extraordinarily beautiful in the movie. “Everything from her clothing and make-up to her overall demeanour has been well attended to. This is a serious makeover and it is evident that our girl is here for the long haul,” says Doshi, who is also all praise for the 30-minute trailer of Miral doing the rounds at the festival.
Allen’s latest cinematic offering is a throwback to his early comedies that analysed issues of romantic scepticism. Allen’s women have always been quirky urban characters who twist their lives with relationship follies. In You Will Meet…, Allen sets this table with a group of people of various ages who can’t seem to get emotional satisfaction with their current partners. As Dia, Pinto fits into the general scheme of Allen’s world. But as Doshi points out, her role is closer to that of Penelope Cruz as the artist Maria Elena in Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. “She isn’t as wild or headstrong as Cruz’s character was, but like her, she plays the exotic muse—the one who drives the male protagonist to action,” he says, adding that it would be unfair to harp on her lack of screen time. “It’s an ensemble cast and every character has a niche. She’s definitely an important element in the narrative.”
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Chopra believes Pinto’s looks have helped her hold her ground so far. “Freida has an effortless, international beauty. Her looks transcend geography and she has a great screen presence,” she says. Film reviewers and bloggers from around the world seem to agree. But unlike the glowing testimonials given to many of Allen’s leading ladies, the initial wave of You Will Meet... reviews give Pinto’s performance cursory mention. Reuters, for instance, said, “(Antonio) Banderas is hardly in the movie and, like Pinto, seems cast for his smouldering dark looks.”
Chopra phrases the general sentiment succinctly. “Neither of her releases so far—Slumdog Millionaire and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger—have showcased her acting talent even though she had a much more meaty role in the former. Hopefully, her next few films will establish her as an actor.”
Her next release, Miral, will be the real match point.