Saturday, January 3, 2009

Review: "Slumdog Millionaire" Grade: B+

"Slumdog Millionaire" (2008)
Grade: A-
Will I be upset if or should I say when “Slumdog Millionaire” wins Best Picture at this year’s Oscars? Not really. It is not undeserving. I have other preferences for this year’s winner but I can see how this film represents where we are right now with this country’s attitudes and since the Oscar usually likes to represent that with its Best Picture winner then this would be the film to reward.

This is another film where I would like to see it again to fully know what I think. I have been the victim of overhype this year. Almost everything I have seen when I go in expecting something remarkable has left me something either remarkable but personally I am not obsessed with it or underwhelming for some reason. I do not really think “Slumdog Millionaire” falls into this category as much as a few of the other films from this year that left me sort of underwhelmed. But in a small way it did. Yet I loved the story, thought it was beautifully told, felt drawn into the characters and their predicaments, etc. I really liked the creative way that the story was told with how he knew the answers to the question. The directing may make a visual pleasure for the audience of events that should not be visually pleasing to watch but I feel that there is an appropriate balance between a glossy visual overcoat of Mumbai life and a raw depiction of disturbing events. The question and answer device felt somewhat plausible which is good because I was afraid it would not.

The visuals are quite stunning. Danny Boyle does a fantastic job of really making everything pop but toning it down a bit for intense events and toning it up for exciting ones. It lent a very fresh feel to the film which makes it stand out with its distinctive style. This is quick editing that works. However I did have a couple of stylistic problems. One was too many hard angles. Some work very well and some were just too much and at times took me out of the film. Second was this technique that Boyle uses sometimes and I have no idea what the name of it is but he uses it when Jamal sees Latika waiting at the train station the first time. I think it can be used once or twice maybe but more than that and I feel like I am watching a music video.

The soundtrack and score are incredible. I was a huge fan of the music choices even though I think another M.I.A song would have worked better instead of “Paper Planes” just because it seems to be everywhere now even if it is still my favorite track by her. Nevertheless it was still good and the rest of the music added such life to everything.

The story itself is really captivating. Seeing Jamal’s life story is immensely satisfying and quite disturbing. I did not expect things to get as intense as they did but Boyle does not shy away from the reality of some of the issues that plague Mumbai and other parts of the world. Shooting in Mumbai also was an essential decision because it grounded everything in a strong reality while the stylistics gave the film a whimsical and lively quality. So that was a very powerful combination.

While everyone wants to jump up for joy at the end of the film I was happy but I did not have the reaction I think I was supposed to. Jamal and Latika’s relationship by the end did not grab me the way the rest of the story did. I very much cared about her because of the horrible life she has had to go through. I very much cared about him and wanted her to get out of her situation but as a couple I was not overly drawn to them. I think this was because while I loved their interactions as children, I did not feel that I had much stock in them as a couple later on because we do not get to know her at all. I know there really is not any room to develop her as a character but in the later segments when she is older, she really is just a beautiful woman who sort of stands around and has no personality. At least we do not get to see it and I get that it has all probably been suppressed through the years but still…I wanted them to get together definitely and I did like and care about them as a couple but by the end I did not want to stand up and cheer or have the reaction that I feel that I should have. So again I cared but I was not on the edge of my seat about the matter.

The performances are uniformly good. Everyone really does a great job of bringing heir characters to life. My two personal favorites are Anil Kapoor as the host of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and Irrfan Khan as the police inspector. As good as Dev Patel was in the film I really would prefer him not to get an Oscar Nomination in Supporting Actor as it looks like he is primed to. It is simply too packed this year.

The film reminded me of “City of God”, which personally I think is the better film but this is honestly a crowning achievement. I do not know what the flaws will be that people see in the film as the hype dies down and the time to rant and rave about whatever issues in the film there seems to be come about but right now I just know that despite a couple of reservations I really was taken in by the film. It has stuck with me and I actually have a strong urge to see it again; which is not a significant urge I have with a lot of the films I have seen this year so that is a really good thing. This is a great film and I feel more strongly about the more I think about it.

No comments: