Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
The story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India's "Kaun Banega Crorepati?" (2000) (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?) But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika, the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show's questions. Each chapter of Jamal's increasingly layered story reveals where he learned the answers to the show's seemingly impossible quizzes. But one question remains a mystery: what is this young man with no apparent desire for riches really doing on the game show? When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the Inspector and sixty million viewers are about to find out. At the heart of its storytelling lies the question of how anyone comes to know the things they know about life and love.
I expected to enjoy Slumdog Millionaire a lot more than I did, especially because it won Best Picture. I'm not put off by violence when it forwards a rich/truthful story line and the cinematography is beautiful, but ultimately, I don't think the film tells a compelling story. The plot evolves like a Lifetime Channel movie of the week with a better cast and more exotic locations. I'm surprised at the other ratings - it seems either people LOVED this film or couldn't watch it because of the relative violence of some of the early scenes. To me, the film just wasn't very interesting. I think the Kite Runner explored similar territory with much more depth, beauty and compassion. Slumdog Millionaire has brief hints of insight into the humanity of extreme poverty, but ultimately seemed like a trite story of rags to riches that has been marketed as something more meaningful.
Danny Boyle proves that you don't have to have any sort of star power to make a great film (we're having a trend now with The Hurt Locker). What really did it for this movie was the superb directing and the well paced editing. The story is original and the score fits the setting throughout each scene. Although most of the story is harsh and depressing, by the end, we get a rare feel good film that works with a deep message, which is why I think it won Best Picture. Most of the time there seems to be a rule that our main protagonist has to die or has to come extremely close to obtaining the main objective of the film to win top prize at the oscars. The acting is not stellar, but it's not anything to really complain about either. If I have a few minor gripes I would complain that when Jamal and Latika see each other after years and years, I did not feel that immensely emotional feeling that you should feel (ex: Forrest and Jenny). Although this was not my favorite film of the year (The Dark Knight, The Wrestler)and I didn't think this film deserved 8 oscars (Schindler's List didn't even win that many), it's still a very good and original film with great directing. It's more than worth a few viewings.