this one disappointed me. I’m sure it had to do with the hype.
Well you have a love story with no chemistry. You have an actor who can’t really act. And you have this really strict plot structure that never sways throughout the course of the film, to a fault. the best parts of this movie were the flashbacks, not the ‘present day’ stuff. the present day stuff was when the film lost its power. i really didn’t care about the game show, to me the story was this group of 3 people and who cares about the game show?
Since it looks like Slumdog is the odds-on favorite to beat Milk in the Academy Awards, I thought it might be good to revisit this thread. I haven’t seen Slumdog but I think Danny Boyle is a very spotty director. Shallow Grave was interesting, if a bit more style over substance; certainly borrowing creatively from the Coen brothers and Hitchcock. I really lost interest in Boyle after The Island, which completely rewrote the ending of the book, changing it from a dark ending to a “feel good” one. I’d love to see Milk win Best Picture and Gus Van Sant win Best Director, but I fear that the academy will go with this on the grounds that it had more “universal appeal.”
What about this film is so fantastic? I personally despised City Of God for a cynical pseudo-anthropological potboiler speckled incongruously with romantic elements; and damned if Slumdog isn’t built the same way. Never mind the intentions of Boyle & Beaufoy – because none of us are able to read minds: we can only judge by what the film itself urges, and the means it uses. How many times, in how many bad direct-to-video or made-for-tee-vee movies, have we seen exactly the same gunplay, the footchases, the use of “urban” music on the score when shit is going down? How much of this movie is cadged from second-raters who were themselves bankrupt enough to steal from Taxi Driver and (Stone’s) Scarface? I don’t trust the critical/publicity environment in which Boyle’s ignored when he makes Millions or Sunshine, but lauded when he cobbles together a B-grade retread gangsta romance in a country he doesn’t really know.
I’m so glad that people have mentioned Crash—there’s another great example of a potboiler taken as a masterpiece.
And don’t be fooled by the formally comic ending (reunion of the lovers) tacked on to the film. It doesn’t magically resolve the jumble of picaresque, magic realism, realism (old skool, like Rossellini, Pasolini), gangsta romance (Boyz In the Hood, Jason’s Lyric), pseudo-anthropology of the Third World’s prototypical ghetto (City of Men – ugh), etc. It’s not sweet, and the dance number’s bullshit: false redemption from all the brutality.
I’m expecting mad and unearned love for this film, at the Oscars—but, really, Boyle’s “India” is right down there with Richard Attenborough’s “India.” (I’ll take Michael Winterbottom, instead, any day, thank you!)
witkacy, i find it interesting that you thought of city of god while watching this too. as a person who studies audience reception as much as i do the films themselves, i believe there is an inherent danger in the hyping of films such as slumdog, city of god, and amores perros. speaking strictly from the point of view of a midwesterner, i know that for a good many people these films are generally their only glimpse of india, brazil, and mexico and i feel it is almost culturally irresponsible in a way to sort of mire these films in poverty and violence, especially when so little of the beauty of indian culture is shown. essentially it really serves to reinforce typical first world stereotypes of the second and third world as being nothing but poor and violent when that is definitely not the case.
that being said, i enjoyed the visceral nature of the film, but feel lucky to have my view of india tempered by the humanist faire of a filmmaker like s. ray…unfortunately many people i know who have seen this film do not have that same background and are left with a rather narrow, trainspotters view of india. and that is a tragedy.
An interesting aside: Apparently before Fox Searchlight scooped it up, Slumdog was going to head direct-to-DVD. If it had, and I’d seen it, I think I’d probably have accepted that as the appropriate release for such a movie.
>> I really lost interest in Boyle after The Island, which completely rewrote the ending of the book, changing it from a dark ending to a “feel good” one.<<
Check out the ending of Q &A, the book that SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is based on …
Troy, I agree with you totally. And it’s disturbing that critics, at the very least, can’t be more analytical in looking at movies, instead of rushing to report on the subjective, visceral effect of image & sound. Quote-whores call some movies “thrill-rides,” but in fact no feature film is literally a thrill-ride, and every movie has some depth below the turbulent surface to be sounded by a viewer who takes the time to think a bit. In the case of cinematic Third World escapades – e.g. Body of Lies; Slumdog – it’s especially important to take a critical distance, and to see how simple-minded, offensive tropes are rebranded. Only compare the sexed-up Slumdog (guns, beatings, eye-gougings and $$$ are “sexy,” too, in movies) with Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay…
i just saw the film. i thought the basic premise was completely corny, with the flashbacks, and the questions specifically relating to every single traumatic moment in his life. the most interesting part about the film was the early section about the kids being forced into a life of hustling. but kusturica already did that a million times better in “time of the gypsies”.
it is a popcorn film that poses as art through a location and culture that were photographed merely to induce a shallow mystical experience
My issue with Slumdog is that it takes the easy,sentimental way out and that from beginning to end it is a picture made to play with audience’s emotions in the most obvious and broadly accepted ways. It’s a crowd pleasing “indie” in the same vien as Little Miss Sunshine(though I liked Slumdog better). Don’t get me wrong, I liked Slumdog, but I don’t think in deserves as much praise as it is getting or to be labelled a “Great Movie”. My humble opinion….
I’m rooting for MILK
… and the un-nominated THE WRESTLER
I found it to be terribly overrated. I didn’t hate it as I was watching it, or rather, hate myself for watching it, but I was asking myself, “What is it in this film that is making people praise it so? What here is new, innovative, or real?” Sure, the kids were charming, particularly the youngest ones, but that wasn’t enough to put this over in such a big way. One question I find I am asking myself more and more is if digital editing isn’t a curse. In The Future(s) Of Film, Godard addresses this. He suggests that through digital editing every possibility for assemblage is instantaneous. Gone is the asking where one should make a cut, if one should make a cut. It’s all a blur of sensory override. Couple this with advanced sound recording where every drop of a spoon resonates with digital clarity. Is this something that is necessary? Do we need to hear each and every sound? And the soundtracks- my god! It’s a clamorous mess. Image and sound are at constant war for our attention. The way most films are lit these days, I find appalling. It’s all hyper, frenetic, in your face, over done. Watching these things I feel as if I’m not really seeing a film unfold, but watching technique. It’s become intolerable. I see fewer and fewer films these days because of this.
I was actually offended by this film. To me, it’s just Trainspotting’s visuals taken to the slums of India, which in my mind is paying lip service to them. As if unadorned imagery from the slums could not be trusted, and somehow needed Danny Boyle’s abuse of filters, tilted cameras and fluttering camerawork to get the message across. And exactly what IS his message? What is he actually trying to say here? It seems like very little. “It is written” wtf is that garbage? And the time-skipping structure is pure crap. Exactly why would the order of the questions asked of Jamal on the show correspond perfectly to the order and chronology of his memories of the events that informed his answers. Yeah, you don’t need to tell us THAT was written. (You know it’s fiction when the characters find each other in a crowd in Mumbai.) The whole movie felt like it was made by the horrified Americans who throw money at the beaten child-Jamal and proudly proclaim that “This is how we do things in America.” It seems Danny Boyle wanted to have it both ways: a gritty, realistic film and a fantasy. This was vainglorious self-advertisement, a work which seems to cash in on human misery but which escapes having to answer any deep questions by using the fantasy framework to excuse any lack of depth or realism.
The film was clearly made by someone who has virtually no idea what to make of the social ills he puts on the screen, and the would-be quirky visual trickery used to dazzle the viewer and mask the inefficiency of the story, (the stylistic equivalent of the Americans’ money) tells us this instantly. It’s all flash and no substance. There is no real contemplation of the deeper meanings inherent in the situations these characters find themselves in, no questioning or probing of the foundations of these problems, no point of view, nor, as Danny Boyle claims, an appreciation of the richness of India. I have been there, I am from there, and this movie never took me there. The movie has what look like complexly constructed visuals (though by no means original or interesting), and a simple, stupid storyline, when it should be the other way around; a story that asks complex questions and has the bravery to approach it in a style that appears simple. Boyle never trusted the material on its own, and it shows. The only question we are asked is a major thematic cop-out because the answer relies on the catch-all of a bad fantasy: It is written. Great, now nobody has to think anymore.
Oh and let’s not forget the completely superfluous M.I.A. song, (a similarly aimless exploitation of the work of greater Indian artists) and dance number at the end to distract us further. I hate M.I.A. fyi. I think she, her artwork, and her music, are completely phony and hollow, and the inclusion of her music in this film only further substantiates my view of the film as hopelessly seeking hipness. Where Wes Anderson used famous soundtracks from great Indian filmmaking to augment and ground his film in the culture, Boyle uses the forgettable work of a flash-in-the-pan golddigging poser who stole her “innovations” from the likes of Ananda Shankar and who initially made her name by snookering stupid celebrities with her craptacular paintings. This film isn’t event the tiniest bit realistic, which is why people who actually live in the slums are fighting back against Danny Boyle’s idiotic vision.
I’m not really sure when the idea of realistic became synonymous with unhappy. Yes, this is a fairytale in many ways and yes, it’s Dickensian. Why does it need an unhappy ending? Why does it have to be political? This movie takes place in the slums of India, where countless numbers of people are in a situation they can’t escape, and many never try to escape. There’s a sense that this is where they are and where they will always be.
What kind of person can escape such a life? There are two roads shown here. There’s the one where you succumb to it all, the way his brother days. To try and rise above it, he covers himself and in all the worst parts of that area. He tries to harness it all, he takes advantage of others to try and stop others from taking advantage of him. But he never escapes from it. The only one who can escape a world like that, who could hold on to hope, is a dreamer. He’s not ambitious, just hopeful. He has many terrible things but instead of succumbing to it all he tries to hold on to the good he can find in the world – Latika. I think the movie is over hyped, but then underdogs and big successes usually are. I still really enjoyed it. The final question felt a bit much and too coincidental for me, but not enough to deter my enjoyment of it all.
Beyond all what many have already stated about the film, I’m surprised no one has mentioned that it feels like this film has already been made somewhere else. The whole time I was watching I feel like I’ve seen it played many times before. I’m sure it breaks down into specific things but overall it FELT like I’ve seen it before. Perhaps some one could pin point what it is that made me feel this?
(though i do enjoy Boyles work, and overall it was an entertaining piece)
It does have that deja vu quality. I think it’s because the film is essentially an episode of 20/20 with trappings any film school graduate could muster.
Because it’s bad Dickens. It’s Dickens by way of MTV (and catered to just that audience, who prefer a film to tell them exactly how to feel). Good Dickens takes us through the slums and on occasion ends us with the hope that our character’s life is on track to improve. Slumdog Millionaire solves all of his problems in one big WHAM!
And that’s just such a tiny bit of what’s wrong with this film.
As others have said, the gritty realistic setting and the fairytale plot simply don’t fit together. It’s a cheat. It’s making the white, middle-class audience feel bad and helpless about poverty and then putting their minds at ease because “it’s written” whatever that means.
And speaking of which, usually movies require protagonists who achieve things. By making the film so blatantly about destiny they’ve not only taken away any suspense (people tell me that when they watched it, their theater was shouting and freaking out at the final question, I ask "does anyone actually believe he’ll lose? The movie is pretty obvious about where it’s headed). And by being so blatant about destiny, the film makes Jemal an uninteresting passive protagonist who doesn’t have to work for what he’s going to get since “it’s written”. The one time Charlie Chaplin ended up getting the money and the girl, at least he had to work for it.
And finally the whole fate issue murkys itself up by not being focused on the right element. Jemal’s main priority was finding Latika. So why did fate need to conspire for him to win Millions? What the hell did that have to do with anything? It would be (more) bad writing but at least if the story had set him up so he needed that millions to get to Latika, it would have made sense. I suppose you can get really contrived and say that without his winning streak he wouldn’t have become National news and she’d have never found out about him being on the show. But isn’t that fate making things too hard for itself? If all this shit is pre-determined, then why couldn’t it have been predetermined for her gangster husband to be hit by a bus. There, problem solved.
It’s all rags-to-riches, and you know how we in the west just love that notion. It provides comfort, this belief, even though this wonderful system of ours is finally showing how deeply and undeniably corrupt it really is.
When the American couple, trying to make amends to the battered little brown-skin boy, gave him some cash, do you suppose Boyle thought that was critique? I laughed out loud at that moment.
Only think how laughable Slumdog would be to many, if it were a period piece in the mode of Rob Marshall’s laughable Memoirs of a Geisha, rather than a contemporary story. What Samiracle said about 20/20 is spot-on: the pseudo-doc “you are there” gritty immediacy is pushed very hard, as a proxy for deep feeling and formal integrity.
Finally saw this and was not impressed. I have no idea why people are praising it, but it certainly isn’t for the storyline, acting, plot development, or Hollywood ending. Are people so taken by angled camera-work? That was arty about 25 years ago, but conventional now. Yes, there are some good scenes in the early part, dealing with the slums, but it is kind of a rip-off of City of God. I did like the credits, with the Bollywood song and dance, but otherwise thought the movie very forgettable. Entertaining yes, best picture of any year, even this last one – no. Typical Oscar fodder, yes. Will we remember this film in a couple of years – no. If it had been more Bollywood and not so Hollywood, I would have liked it more. Boyle had better redeem himself for his next film project, or he is just another sell-out.
Slumdog was pretty good and exciting, but it was safe, it never really took any chances. The, now quintessential, Danny Boyle toilet scene would have been a risk…if he hadnt already shot that same exact scene in other films. I loved the feeling of grandeur that the film evoked while still keeping you interested in the characters. but again, it is a safe movie, you knew what was going to happen and were just along for the ride. this was a great popcorn movie, but best picture?…i have my doubts (no pun).
I thought the film did a nice job of approximating Bollywood marsala.
It’s not that Slumdog Millonaire is not a good film. It is. It is very well made, with a good script and good performances, but let’s face it if the film was made in the US about a kid from Harlem or from anyplace else in the country for that matter it would not have gotten so many awards and been the “critics darling” that it is.
I didn’t like it because of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN which is much more interesting and less obviously an art film; right Mr. Toyle (I mean Boyle)
I think it had alot more potential than was realized. My feelings about the film remain mixed for three reasons, 1. The terrible performance by Dev Patel, 2. The equally horrific performance by Freida Pinto, 3. The thread which runs through the movie about him searching for his lost “love”. To me this never worked as the main character, his brother and the girl referred to themselves as The Three Musketeers but doesn’t that conjure up feelings of deep friendship, not romantic love? It just rang so hollow when he finally tracks her down as an adult and tries to kiss her on the lips thirty seconds after they’ve been reunited when up to then we the audience were made to believe the protagonist had been thinking of her as a surrogate sister.
I disagree with the original post. I don’t think the happy ending took away from the film’s gritty realism. The dance at the end, for example, was more of an homage to Bollywood cinema than anything else. Even if the film ends on a somewhat happy note, I don’t know that anyone can walk away from the film feeling wonderful and happy. Its designation as a “feel-good” movie is ludicrous. What I walked away with more than anything was the horrors of poverty, rather than the joy of winning the game show.
Preach on Drew. I’m with you 100 percent on your views.
There’s a great, multi-page review of Slumdog in the latest issue of Cineaste, which basically covers every complaint both myself and a lot of people here had with the film, plus about a dozen more issues that they had with it (tangents into Colonial rule in India and all that).
The best tidbit I got out of it was referring to Slumdog Millionaire as “middle-brow art,” in that it satiates the needs and desires of a large section of Western citizens who feel that they should care about things such as foreign films and issues involving poverty in other nations, but simply don’t give a shit or aren’t intelligent enough to actually delve into it.
Essentially, they know that they should be eating at a five-star restaurant, but then they go to McDonalds and claim that they’ve had a gourmet meal, comfortable in the false idea that they’ve experienced fine dining.
Agree with people who said they were disappointed in it due to the hype about it.