Thursday, February 19, 2009

Day Thirteen: Slumdog Millionaire (2008) - Rank 4/5


For weeks, the buzz about Hollywood is that "Slumdog Millionaire" is a shoo-in for the title of "Best Picture." It's swept the Globes, SAG, the Director's Guild, etc. While I found it to be a great film, and certainly a fresh picture from the film industry, I just don't see it as monumental or ground-breaking enough to be worthy of the title (but then again, how many films really are? Two years ago, best picture and director went to a remake of a Chinese film).

I think my friend Allen said it best (in reference to the hype) after he and his wife Trish caught the film: "It's boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. What else can I say?" He was right. At it's very core, "Slumdog Millionaire" is a tried and true story that's woven its way through the rich tapestry of cinematic history dozens of times over. Yet people are coming to see it in droves (the last time I recall a film selling out on a weekly basis was when we played "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" *shudder*). To figure out what they see in the film, the more important patrons to pay attention to are the ones that walk out within thirty minutes. What they despise is what I really liked about the film, and what I believe sets the tale above so many of its kind.

Danny Boyle shows you a multitude of different aspects of humanity that you do not want to see. Brutal genocide, disfigurement of children for profit, teenage girls sold into prostitution...all despicable aspects of humanity that the lead, Jamal, must overcome to be with his "true love." Most stories in this genre pit the male against class differences or whimsically eccentric parents to get the girl. The obstacles that Jamal must overcome make you root for him to stay alive and unharmed, much less "get the girl." When the film finally does end, you feel genuinely uplifted, because any positive outcome seems triumphant when compared with the path it took to get there. In that sense, the feelings that "Slumdog Millionaire" generated in me are analogous to those I felt after watching "Maria, Full of Grace." The realm she emerged from is so stark and depraved that her breaking free seems that much sweeter. I suppose "Requiem For a Dream" could be another example...if anyone came out on top...which Jennifer Connelly sorta more ways that one. WOAH! Double entendre!

Anyway, in the end, even if you're curmudgeony enough to not be moved at all, you do have to appreciate the versatility that Danny Boyle has shown over his career. Each film of his touches on a different genre and has a unique feel to it. The kinetic, melee camerawork aids in capturing the hectic and fast-paced nature of the script. I honestly believe that this film is his best, though it is not my favorite (that honor would go to "Sunshine" - in my opinion, one of the best science fiction films of the past decade). I will say this: see the film, but don't go in to watch a "Best Picture of the Year." View is as a great love story. I think the hype and accolades can easily distract one from enjoying the quiet, simple and moving pleasures the film has to offer.

Watch the Trailer

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