The Slumdog Millionaire and Danny Boyle Rave
I finally saw Slumdog Millionaire this week and, man, was it ever good!
The story of an orphaned kid from the slums of Mumbai (Bombay) who gets a chance to win both a fortune on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" and the love of the girl of his dreams, the film is obviously a bit of an unlikely fairy tale. But it's a fairy tale deeply anchored in the gritty, depressing reality of India's millions of desperately poor slum dwellers.
Not only was the movie filmed largely on location right there in the slums of Mumbai, but many of the extras and two of the young stars are actually from those very same slums.
Director Danny Boyle was already one of my favorite filmmakers, even before I saw this masterful piece of cinema. He's been making highly original films ever since he first burst onto the scene back in the mid-'90s with the double knock-out-punch of Shallow Grave (1995) and Trainspotting (1996), both set in Scotland.
He then moved across the Atlantic to America where he made A Life Less Ordinary (1997), which, like the previous two films, was written by John Hodge and starred the great Ewan McGregor. The Beach, set in Thailand and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, may not have been as great as his three earlier, small budget films, but it was still a pretty good film.
And since then he's successfully tried his hand at sci-fi/horror (28 Days Later... in 2002), old-fashioned outer-space sci-fi (Sunshine in 2007) and even a kids flick (Millions in 2004).
A Grim Fairy Tale
As for the central plot of Slumdog Millionaire, some have criticized it for being completely unrealistic and I won't deny that it's (as I already mentioned above) a fairy tale at heart. However, the fact of the matter is few fairy tales have ever featured such gritty, depressing realism.
We're talking about a story that features horrific sectarian violence (something that is, sadly, still a very real phenomenon in modern day India), murder, kidnapping, intentional disfigurement of children in order to make them more profitable as beggars, prostitution, torture by the police, and the simple reality of life in the slums.
So, go ahead and say the film is an improbable feel-good fairy tale, but just make sure to acknowledge that it also features more depressing reality than 90% of documentaries out there.
Memories of A Year Spent in India
Having spent a full year in India together with my wife earlier this decade, the film brought back all sorts of memories, both wonderful and sad. Anyone who's been to India knows that the poverty depicted in the film is all too real, as are the child beggars, the prostitution (including the children forced into the sex trade), and the extreme wealth rising up all around this vast poverty.
However, the resilience of the poor that is depicted throughout this film is also very real. As is the joie de vivre that is on constant display from so many people who have so very little throughout the country. It's really one of the truly remarkable things about India.
Milk and The Oscars
Anyhow, now that I've seen Slumdog Millionaire, the one film I most want to see is Gus Van Sant's Milk, starring Sean Penn, but it looks like I won't be seeing it before the Oscars this Sunday.
Speaking of the Oscars, it'd be great if either of these two small budget films were to win. Likewise, if either Boyle or Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, To Die For, Good Will Hunting) were to win then it'd be a win for one hell of a fantastic director.
And, finally, I just want to ask one simple question: What the fuck is up with a bag of popcorn costing seven bucks anyway?! I may be of good Scottish stock and, therefore, cheap as hell, but I'm guessing it's not just us cheap bastards who think seven bucks for a bag of popcorn is simply going too far.
Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Friday, February 20th, 2009
To read a good interview with Danny Boyle about the making of this film and his love of Mumbai click here
And to see my list of the best films of 2008 click here: My Picks For The Best 25 Films of 2008
And to see my rave review of Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona click here: Lucky Day: The Bruce and Woody Rave
Or for another recent piece on film try this The "Eternal Sunshine of Charlie Kaufman's Mind" Rave (Featuring My List of The Top 5 Comedies of All Time)
For more on film click here: MikesAndDislikes Film: Home
Or here: Film: General
Or here: Film: Raves & Reviews
Or, if you happen to be a Bob Dylan fan, check this out: The 25 Greatest Dylan Songs of The Past 20 Years