Thursday, August 27, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

As some readers will know, the trendiness of some foreign films is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I think the ones that do well in the west are generally very similar to mainstream American films but seem exotic and different because they're in a different language and the actors are unfamiliar.

This is what I thought Slumdog Millionaire would be like and I think that's more or less right. I thought it was enjoyable and good.

The poverty stuff was horrible and it makes the reasonable point that mocking someone for not knowing the motto on on India's national emblem is as silly as mocking someone for not knowing who stole some particular item. The rich know different things but that isn't in itself admirable.

But otherwise, I don't get it. There are things that I think are problems, but perhaps that's just me not getting stuff. There was a love story, which was very sweet, but it's more a vehicle to show off how awesome Jamal is than anything else. Latika is barely a character and there's never a chance to explore their relationship at all. Telling Jamal's life story through the questions is a clever idea, but it's a clever gimmick, it isn't anything more than an excuse to tell us about some parts of his past. Having once handled a gun isn't an explanation for why he knows which was the first commercially successful gun.

I also thought the violence was a little odd. The gang stuff feels about the same as City of God and it makes sense; kids growing up in poverty without parents, why wouldn't they be in gangs? But unlike Rio, India has an extremely low murder rate. I think one of the reasons people like the film is because we hardly know anything about India. I think it'd have been more interesting if the film attempted to shed some light on why those conditions don't generally lead to violence.

Anyway, I liked it, I just don't really get why people go so crazy over it.


Sid said...

You raise some valid points. Just wondering if the book is any better. If perhaps the beautiful female lead does in fact happen to have a personality, but for some reason the directors didn't think to show it in the movie? I know that the Benjamin Button movie was nothing at all like the book.

mutt said...

Haven't read the book. My sister in law read it and it didn't make much of an impression but I don't know.

I haven't read the book version of ben button, but the movie was sooooo long. I was bored.