Sunday, 18 January 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

What am I missing? EVERYONE loves Slumdog Millionaire. The critics love it (my favourite critic, Roger Ebert, called it a masterpiece). Walter loves it. The masses love it. So why didn’t I love it? Could it be because I hate Who Wants to be a Millionaire even more than highwire walking? Quite possibly, since that game show is a core plot element throughout and my hatred for the show had to interfere with my objectivity.

I certainly agree that Slumdog Millionaire is a brilliantly-made film. The cinematography is outstanding, the acting is very good, the direction and editing are almost flawless and I loved the Mumbai setting and the insight it gives us into lives of people in India. It also has moments of great humour, enough for most comedies these days, even though this is most certainly not a comedy. And perhaps that is where the film loses me. One critic wrote that this is the “feel-good film of the year”. I was appalled by this. I didn’t feel good at all. I found it to be a very dark film and far more violent than I ever would have guessed it would be. I like to be surprised by a film (which is why I go in knowing absolutely nothing) but most of the surprises in Slumdog Millionaire left me cold.

Too many little parts of the story just didn’t work for me. For example, this is a film about serendipity, or the “mystical flow” as I call it, and that alone might have suggested this would be one of my favourite films of the year, but this plot element involved that incredibly stupid game show and so I could not appreciate it at all.

My review is harsh because this film has been so popular and won the Golden Globe. I just don’t think it’s that good. Nevertheless, I do think it deserves ***+, though it will not make my top ten of 2008.

My mug is up but the stuff inside is a tad too bitter for me.


  1. I'm a little surprised by your reaction (though I also hate Who Wants to be a Millionaire?). One reviewer described the game show as a metaphor rather than a realistic event, and I tended to agree. What I saw as the highlight of the movie - which made it life-affirming in spite of its dark setting - was its depiction of the role of narrative (a tender spot for me like your 'mystical flow' theme) in Jamal's conversation with the police, and the idea that life teaches the person with the open heart and commitment to righteousness even if that life is in the slums.

  2. At some level I might have seen this, but not the way you describe it - this is interesting and I will need to give it more thought. The game show is a metaphor for what exactly?

  3. I think a metaphor for being able to make it at life - to escape from the limitations of his origins. I think some of the clues are 1) not making much of how he got on the show, 2) the money means nothing to him, 3) the "lifeline" which of course was not at all about the answer.

  4. Interesting. Okay, I'll reconsider my approach to the film with that in mind (I confess that the game show didn't make any sense to me because of some of these inconsistencies - as you say, Jamal had no real interest in the show as such and it seemed to be about something else; I just can't figure out why they chose the game show to do it (I REALLY hate that show)).