In four words: DO NOT MISS IT.
As someone that revels in the joys of biting sarcasm and the cynicism of all around me, I for once find myself stripped of my ability to strike a less than effusive tone. Slumdog Millionaire – which I initially avoided like I would a ridiculous Bollywood romp, then got curious about after good word and mouth and great reviews – hit me in the solar plexus and left me laughing, tearing up, getting angry, getting sad, cringing, laughing and tearing up again. It was a color-filled rollercoaster as any movie set in Bombay ought to be, and I loved every minute of it.
A lot of people have referred to Danny Boyle‘s improbable yet delicious rags-to-riches tale of a young orphan Dickensian. While that is certainly a compliment, it robs the movie of its very Indian, very Bombay-esque essence. The sights, the sounds, the colors, the pitch-perfect crass slum Hindi, the wretched settings in which slum dwellers eke out an existence, the inhumanity and the glorious humanity of it all is INDIAN above all else. The movie is an Indian movie at heart – how ironic, then, that it took an international crew to create such memorable fare while Bollywood continues to wallow in the dimwitted mind-numbing shit and piss they churn out with robotic frequency, each movie doing a more miserable job of aping the gringos than the last.
Not to give anything away but the story centers around a young lad named Jamal Malik who grew up in the sprawling slums of Bombay with his slightly older and far edgier brother Salim. The Muslim brothers know nothing but squalor and poverty and violence and learn to live their lives on the precipice of death. They beg, cheat, steal and con European tourists to get by. They cuss, punch, kill and maim to protect each other and the dignity of those around them. One brother ends up in a lowly white collar gig, a marginal loser on the fringe of a society where success is nowadays symbolized by a headset and a feeble attempt at a foreign accent (a gross exaggeration, no doubt, but valid for this movie). The other brother, armed with a Colt and a willingness to bend the rules turns player. No prizes for guessing who turns millionaire in the end.
Most of the characters are well written and the movie consciously avoids Bollywood stereotypes of dancing around trees and other nonsense. The fact that they reserve a Bollywood-like dance for the very end of the movie before the credits is a welcome change and a fitting rebuke of traditional Bollywood; it shows that one can make a great movie with a great soundtrack that is hugely entertaining without resorting to the path of least resistance.
Parts of the love story between the main character (Dev) and his lifelong squeeze are a stretch at best and hackneyed at worst. But this is a minor peccadillo and takes almost nothing away from the soaring splendor that is Slumdog Millionaire.
So to recap: DO NOT MISS IT.
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Alternative Title: Why I Quit Eating Fast Food.
I just got through this on HBO. If you arent someone who handles meat on a regular basis (I went to a barbeque two weeks ago where the host was arm deep in a pig’s shoulder; he is going to be fine after watching this film), be prepared to get your stomach churning in the last ten minutes.
The last ten minutes of this movie – spent in the heart of a meat processing plant and chronicling the ugly process from the slaughter of cows all the way to the handling of the carcass – will make you want to throw up.
The first 90 minutes of the movie are entertaining watching but slow going. All in all, you are probably better off reading the book. Eric Schlosser is a fine writer and “Reefer Madness” – his follow-on work is excellent.
Skip this one unless you intend to turn vegetarian.