A few weeks ago, James sang the praises of Slumdog Millionaire and called it one of the best films of the year. While I don’t necessarily disagree that the latest from director Danny Boyle is a unique, action-packed love story, I urge you to lower your expectations before checking it out (it’s continuing to expand into more theaters across the country over the next four weeks). While I had read tons of press on the movie before seeing it, my husband knew absolutely nothing about its plot or the buzz it’s been receiving, and he enjoyed the movie much more than I did.
I was most intrigued by Slumdog‘s central question: how did Jamal, a poor, uneducated young man from Mumbai’s destitute shantytowns, end up on the brink of winning twenty million rupees as a contestant on India’s hit game show, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" The flashback sequences recounting Jamal’s epic journey in and out of the slums were both humbling and inspiring, and were far and away the best parts of the film. The actors and actresses who played Jamal, his brother Salim and "third Musketeer" Latika at earlier stages of life were absolutely wonderful. They were able to transform from high-spirited children into cynical, streetwise rascals at the drop of a hat.
The current-day sequences were where the movie stumbled.
My main issue was with the adult version of Jamal, played by Dev Patel. While
James deemed Patel "a wonder," I thought he was a compete and total
dud. He had just one expression in every scene and I don’t know how
else to explain it other than to say that he looked dimwitted… like
if you were in front of him you’d want to snap your fingers in his face
or wave your hands in front of his eyes and say, "Hello? Anybody in
there?" Perhaps Patel was trying to channel the patience and wisdom that would come with over two decades of scamming for your next meal and running from authority, but to me he just looked bored and vacant.
Things took a turn for the worse when it’s revealed exactly where Latika ended up and how Jamal was able to find her again after being separated for several years. I know the whole movie was meant to be somewhat fantastical, but the chain of events near the end of the movie was beyond far-fetched.
All that being said, I would still recommend Slumdog Millionaire. I often complain about the lack of originality in cinema as of late, and there’s simply no denying that this movie is a breath of fresh air. I have always truly appreciated the unique look of Boyle’s films, as well as his knack for pulling together the right composers and artists for kick-butt soundtracks, and Slumdog Millionaire is no exception in either regard.
Now the question on everyone’s minds is, will the Academy love this film as much as all of the critics seem to?