Slumdogs of the World Unite
We finally got to see Slumdog Millionaire last night, courtesy of a friend’s review copy. (We rarely go to first run movies any more, though I had a chance to see Slumdog on Thanksgiving, before it opened, and had to leave the party as we had a restless Noel with us.) It was one of those films that kept me awake overnight, it was so damn good. I don’t have time to offer a considered critique, and I’m trusting that many of you are ahead of us and have already seen it. In short, it just seemed to me an absolute marvel of movie-making, the kind of film that restores one’s faith in the transformative potential of the silver screen. All the more so for the reasons you may have heard: no famous actors, lots of foreign language, and a seemingly anti-climactic subject matter. Indeed, how was this movie ever pitched in Hollywood? “Uneducated slum kid enters Indian edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Gets all the questions right. Movie explains how.”
Fortunately, director Danny Boyle was more than up to the task. Not everything he’s made over the years has resonated with public or critics (who remembers Millions?), but between Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire, he’s now made two movies for the ages. (Both, not so coincidentally, and I’m obviously sticking up for my work here, were based on novels. So was the Beach, an excellent movie if not quite in the same category.) And I find Boyle’s ability to coax such magical performances out of untrained actors (teenage Londoner Dev Patel as Jamal, plus the little kids who play the younger versions of Jamal, his brother Salim, and Jamal’s eternal love interest Latika) as inspiring as his cinematography and his pacing. For this, I’m sure that Indian co-director Loveleen Tandan deserves equal credit.
So, not a review, not a critique, perhaps just a lengthy “twitter.” I’m trying to post less here, more often. Still, I see that the UK’s Daily Telegraph and Guardian both predict that Slumdog Millionaire will clean up at Sunday’s Oscars. I do hope so. For all that some of my friends have been equally moved by Milk, especially Sean Penn’s performance, Slumdog has made it without a single marquee name. Unfortunately, a row has broken out over payments to the child actors, born and raised and still living in the Mumbai slums, who played the younger versions of Jamal, Salim and Lakita. Life has a horrible habit of imitating art.
If there’s an additional irony to Slumdog’s Oscar status it’s that the movie is carrying two of the three nominations for Best Song, yet neither of them is M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” the double use of which (once in original single fashion, the other in infectious DFA remix) further enlivened the movie for me. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the best film of the last two years made use of the best song of the last two years. Come to that, didn’t Trainspotting make a hit out of Underworld’s “Born Slippy”? Danny Boyle, take a bow.