Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle & Loveleen Tandan, 2008)

How bizarre that the one part of Slumdog Millionaire that I REALLY loved and sat in rapt, awe-stricken attention to, the big climax with the final question, was the part that made absolutely NO sense logically. Shows you how flawed and uneven and messy this movie is to be, of all things, the favorite to win Best Picture. It’s looks great and is thrilling, and is stylish to no end, but it’s also a stylish mess – a mish-mash of eye-grabbing shots/angles and editing that REALLY go overboard and just gave me more a headache than anything. I GUESS the movie’s a good enough snapshot of life in the hideously class-driven world of Mumbai like everyone says, but it was still kinda tough finding that snapshot when Mr. Style himself, Danny Boyle, is bombarding you with Dutch angles and music video editing and cool music (great music, actually, that makes all the random-ass chase scenes and shit thrilling, so give the movie credit for that at least). And the structure, so deceptively simple – a Mumbai orphan making his way onto Who Wants to Be A Millionaire and miraculously answering question after question correctly, flashbacks showing us how he knows the answers, is convenient enough to provide a good chronological back-and-forth narrative structure that’s easier to follow than you might think (you wouldn’t think that a feature film’s exact recreation of a game show you could see 5 days a week on CBS could be at all interesting, but the Millionaire show scenes actually serve as a perfect bridge between different parts of the plot/timeline, and are damn suspenseful in their own right – some of the best scenes in the entire film), but also kind of infuriating. SO many coincidences, where every single question directly reflects a profound event in Jamal’s life (not to mention you just KNEW what the big final question was gonna be), and every plot point HAD to fall in place perfectly for everything to turn out the way it does. And don’t give me any of that “it is written” crap, you’d like SOMETHING to come out of left field once in a while in a good movie.  Way too many plot-related shortcuts and convenient coincidences with the unfathomably simple ‘here’s the answer, and here’s how I know it’ structure for my liking, though I guess that was pretty much unavoidable.  But then again, I did love that ending that I REALLY should’ve hated for being the peak of the star-crossed lover story, the crowd pleaser to end all crowd pleasers that you can see coming a mile and a half away, so I guess I don’t know what I’m talking about. And that orgy of great-looking shots and editing that was more of a pretty distraction than anything was used in the similar, and great, City of God, so I REALLY don’t know what I’m talking about. Fuck it, the climax is thrilling and wonderful, makes up for any of Boyle’s look-at-my-mad-visionary-auteur-skillz stuff that came before. Good movie, excellent performances by the kids playing the younger versions of the precocious Jamal, his unhinged brother Salim and Jamal’s idealized love Latika in flashback that make up for the blah, nothing performances by their older counterparts, but just doesn’t belong atop the Best Picture field.

7/10

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5 comments so far

  1. Allison on

    Go screw yourself. K, thnx.

  2. Simon M. on

    you know, i DID say that I liked the movie….god forbid I give a movie I like at least SOME criticism. First James criticizes me for criticizing Modern Romance (which I ultimately said that I liked), now you tell me to screw myself ‘cuz I didn’t find Slumdog perfect (even though, yes, I LIKED it). I just can’t win around here 😦

  3. moogirl22 on

    I love your reviews, man. They’re always completely and utterly insane. Props.

    I agree with most of your points – the music was awesome, the cinematography great, but there were a few hiccups here and there. There is only so many times you can tilt the camera with the shot still working to the same effect. I enjoyed it more than you did – I tend to be a little easier with ratings these days, and I also appreciate how fun he made it even though it was a total cliche. But overall a good film, worth a see.

  4. Simon M. on

    insane, really? For a while there I was trying to sound all professional-like in my reviews until I got flack for being too snobby, so lately I have been trying to ghetto-ize ’em, make them more stream-of-consciousness crazy-ish, so I guess you’re right 😛

    But yeah, the more I think about it, the more this movie really does seem cliched…there’s a reason so many reviews compare it to Oliver Twist, after all. There’s only so many times you can cover up cliches with fancy editing and Dutch angles…you can cover a disgusting, graffiti-laden brick wall with pretty drapes all you want, it’s still a disgusting, graffiti-laden brick wall through and through.

    Someone on a forum I go to sometimes made a great point that every question Jamal is asked on the show details his life in perfect chronological order with no deviation. Just goes to show you how many shortcuts the filmmakers took with the age-old storytelling device of deus ex machina / coincidences, eh? Still, though, it’s an eye-grabbing, exciting movie, and I couldn’t help but at least chug a LITTLE bit of the Kool-Aid 😕

  5. moogirl22 on

    Yeah. I also noticed that, whilst he is a kid from the slums, he can speak perfect english with practically no accent. WTF? How the hell would he be able to learn english, let alone speak it with a better accent than some who have actually lived in english-speaking countries?

    So many plotholes… but it’s fun-ness is too overwhelming.


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