Thoughts on Slumdog Millionaire…

January 8, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

Ilona invited me to see a screening of the oft-praised Slumdog Millionaire at the Angelika this evening. I had been anticipating seeing the movie for several weeks, as it has been considered one of the top contenders for the best picture Oscar this year, so I am glad to have been given the opportunity to see it. Even more so, I am happy to see that attendance at the theater was great, considering both that it is a Wednesday night and a lesser advertised movie that has been in theaters for a stretch of time. It is good to know that some businesses are surviving (perhaps thriving?) this economy.

The movie was an unexpected treat. Many times my expectations are such that I fail to be impressed or moved by criticially-approved pieces. Yet this movie was subtle enough and slow enough to win anyone over. The movie has a love story at its core, as many great movies do. But this love story is not the traditional kind of love story. It is one marked not by sex or flirtation, but by longing as a reult of a childhood separation. We can assume Jamal and Latika love one another because of the loss they both faced in their childhood, using each other to fill the gap of loss. In this way, the love story functions more like a brother-sister relationship than anything else, and it becomes very naturalistic and beautiful. It is never fully explained, never explicit or visible. They just know they love one another.

The movie’s premise of interspersing real time and flashbacks of the past was nothing new, but was cleverly executed in the beginning of the film. As the tension mounted towards the later half of the movie, this style grew tiresome and impeded the flow of the story more than anything else. Moreover, it did not maintain the experimental half that preceded it, in which cuts between times were faster and symbols (like the God Rama) were visual centerpieces, adding artistic character to the piece.

Things I liked:

  • The Bollywood-esque dance sequence at the end.
  • Something I never thought I would say…the child actors. They were the most natural of all of the actors in the film, and their work (which seemed often dangerous and dirty) deserves credit.
  • One of those moments in movie history when Latika picks up the ‘Phone a Friend’ call from the game show and Jamal knows she loves him.

Things I disliked:

  • Nothing positive ever seemed to happen to this family. It was a little heavy-handed for the writers to make such a depressing story (not to mention unbelievable…it was saved by its setting, which for all the audience knows could produce such awful event).
  • Seeing how poor India seems to be based on the scenery of the movie.

Would I recommend it to friends? Absolutely, I would.

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