Provoked: A True Story (review)
It’s an all-too-familiar story, unfortunately: A woman strikes back at her husband after years of abuse, then has to fight the criminal justice system to be recognized as a traumatized victim, not a dangerous offender herself. The instance of social injustice detailed here is a true one, based on real events in England in the late 1980s and early 90s, and this conventional but deftly handled movie lays it bare, plays it straight, and eschews all the soppy melodrama we’ve come to expect from such solemn displays of aggressive, mad-as-hell feminism. Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai (Bride & Prejudice) is Kiran, a Punjabi woman in London who, despite her career ambitions, settles on an arranged marriage to old-school Deepak (Naveen Andrews: Grindhouse); he almost immediately begins treating her like garbage, abusing her emotionally, physically, and sexually. Ten years later, she sets him on fire while he sleeps. You’ll mostly be able to predict the tone and direction of Jag Mundhra’s earnest adaptation of the real Kirnjit Ahluwalia’s autobiography — it opens today in New York and Los Angeles and will expand next week — but Rai’s sensitive performance is worth a look: she takes Kiran from a woman of meek reaction to one fully in charge of her life as, ironically, prison frees her spirit. Alas, much of the rest of the excellent cast, including Miranda Richardson and Robbie Coltrane, don’t get much of a chance to shine; even Andrews’ vicious bastard is more caricature than character, kept small and obvious by the flavorless script. And though Ahluwalia’s case eventually changed the course of British jurisprudence, there’s little sense of the grand import of that here.
(Technorati tags: Provoked, Aishwarya Rai, Naveen Andrews, domestic violence)