If you don’t have a strong stomach, don’t bother with Slumdog Millionaire. If you have a strong stomach AND a strong heart, this may be one of your favorite movies of 2008. It is now, one of mine.
It’s Christmas time in the cinema. All the good movies are out or coming out. Oscar is waiting in the wings for his darlings to embrace him.
I am embracing Slumdog Millionaire. I have yet to see some of the top shelf films but at this point, I’d give this movie every award.
Almost any movie that is shot in India is inevitably filled with color. (Think Monsoon Wedding) In Slumdog, the palette is oranges, reds, yellows and golds waving like fabric against cardboard and tin huts in the ghetto. Miles and miles of them.
Clothes washing, bathing and swimming in polluted water. Shoeless, brown- skinned children chasing each other at the dump over mounds and mounds of garbage.
Squalor like most westerners have never seen close up.
Slumdog Millionaire is about, Jamal, one of the unlucky boys who grew up in the Mumbai ghetto. Ghetto being a word too small to capture the vastness of this place. Early in the movie we witness the set up of the boy’s life. Abject poverty, mother loss, he and his sometimes devious brother, Salim, ( I mean seriously devious) against the world.
Then we fast forward to the miraculous event in the boy’s life where he becomes a winning contestant on India’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” show. But, how is it possible that this “slumdog” young man who serves tea for a living can know all the show’s answers?
Swept away by thugs following his first night of winning, “authorities” try to beat an explanation out of him. He must be cheating.
Here’s the most masterful part of the movie. Jamal, who has been through way too much for this torture session to have much of an effect on him, takes his interrogators through horrendous episodes in his life where he lived the answers to the questions on “Millionaire.”
Superimposed in these scenes is the recurrent attention to a particular girl, Latika, to whom Jamal, is devoted since early childhood. It is this love, maybe the only constant in his life ,that provides the motivation that got him to the tv set and likely gave him a reason to live at all.
The story is painful. There are a lot of scenes where I was forced to look away. But, the beauty of it is equally impactful. Upon leaving the theatre I felt myself exhale for the first time in nearly two hours and was exhausted from holding all of the muscles in my body in a vice grip.
The characters are beautiful as children and as adults. The contrasting choice of paths chosen by the brothers, stunning.
There’s some basic good and evil stuff. Love conquering all. But, never did I think the messages were trite.
It’s how they’re told that I find so remarkable.
I probably won’t be able to watch Slumdog Millionaire twice but I strongly urge you to see it once.
It’s storytelling at its very best.
Just remember, strong stomach, strong heart. No daring new foods before you go!
Stick to plain old popcorn and you should be fine.Comments (5)
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