Dec 22, 2008

Monday: I Like Slumdog Millionaire

I finally got to see this movie Friday after I convinced my brother and some friends that it would be good. This was a little tougher than I thought it was going to be, because apparently I “don’t usually pick out good movies”. I’m not really sure what they’re talking about, the worst movie I’ve picked that I can remember was The Mist, which was a pretty good movie…. right up until the end anyway (if you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about). Also trying to explain the plot to Slumdog wasn’t helping, because on paper the plot sounds pretty stupid (we’ll get into that in a second). Eventually though they gave in and went with me to check it out, and talking to them later everyone really enjoyed it. So I just thought I’d share some vague things I liked about it, and hopefully I won’t give too much of the movie away and you can go check it out.

Briefly, the plot of the movie concerns the destiny of this young man in India named Jamal. We catch up with him at a critical point in his life as he competes on the most popular game show in India “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” (which sounds a lot cooler with an Indian accent by the way). As the game goes on, the questions that Jamal has to answer lead to flashbacks about his life that tell the story of his childhood growing up in the slum, traveling around India with his brother Salim and friend Latika, falling in Love with Latika, and ultimately being unable to be with Latika. In fact Jamal really isn’t that interested in being a millionaire, the show is really just his last ditch effort to find Latika, who he’s been separated from. I know that it sounds simple on paper, but the story is actually pretty cool and draws a lot of comparisons to some of Charles Dickens stories.

I like movies that take place in other countries and cultures. It’s really unbelievable how easy it is to forget about the rest of the world living here in the U.S. so it’s nice to be reminded of the different and amazing things the rest of the world has to offer. The Movie leans heavily on India, and at times treats it as a character. It changes and grows throughout the movie as the flashbacks cover the 20 odd years of Jamal’s life leading up to his fated date with “Millionaire”. India has been really interesting to me lately, because I just finished a class on culture taught by a professor from India. On the last day all he did was field questions about his country and told stories about Hinduism, the growing economy, and arranged marriages, so seeing a movie set in India was nice.

The music in the movie is also surprisingly good. There’s some scenes of kids running through the forest or riding on trains that would run the risk of being mediocre in any other movie, but because of the crazy way they were shot and the music that accompanies them, end up being really amazing. Speaking of the kids in the movie, they’re great. They’re funny, cool, intelligent, and completely believable as whatever character they’re playing. In fact as the movie moves forward in time, you’ll actually miss the kids that play the younger versions of the characters because they are so likable. It’s actually a good thing though as some of the characters are supposed to grow less and less likable as they grow up and get corrupted by the real world and what it has to offer.

I know the plot sounds really simple, and actually a little bit cheesy, and in reality…it is. But I’ve noticed that some of my favorite movies have pretty simple plots, it’s when you start getting those convoluted stories like “The Usual Suspects, or “There Will be Blood” when movies kind of lose the fun aspect and become a little bit like work. I’m not saying that Slumdog is dumbed down or anything, far from it, there is actually a lot of subtle storytelling in the movie that makes it fun to watch. I’m just saying that noticing that subtle stuff is rewarding and you don’t walk out of the theater wondering “what the heck was that ending supposed to mean anyway?”

In the end, the movie is satisfying. Something it seems like is harder and harder to find in movies lately. It’s like they are all banking on some kind of twist at the end of the movie, or some kind of incomprehensible plot that you’ll have to look up on-line later to understand (“Oh, so the rabbit represents Donnie’s future….wait, what?). Slumdog Millionaire just has a cool, classic, old fashioned story, and does an amazing job of telling it. It’s funny, subtle, entertaining, and sad, it covers the gamut. Last but not least; it cleared my reputation as a “chooser of bad movies”—an impressive feat, and possibly the ultimate testament to how good this movie is.

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