Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Slumdog Millionaire": movie review

"Slumdog Millionaire" is shaping up to be THE must-see movie of the year, so I went to see it. Its freshness comes from its unvarnished portrayal of India's brutal realities, but overall this feel-good drama does not deviate one bit from genre cliches. All the characters eventually are rewarded according to their choices. Somebody who went over to the dark side redeems himself in death. Sorry if that's too spoilerous, but really, you can predict the characters' fates halfway into the movie. The scenes of brutality are disturbing enough to possibly trick you into thinking you are watching Real Art. :-) But this is not a movie that will make you think, unless it's of human rights violations in India. That's a worthy topic, but it's merely an aside in this movie.

I used to watch lots of Indian movies back in my teenage years. In the time and place I grew up in, Indian movies were so popular as to be practically mainstream. I had a friend who liked to revel in the kitschy, over-the-top spirit of Indian dramas, and she used to drag me to see them. This is not, of course, a Bollywood movie per se (it's made by a British director); but I saw in it echos of memes common to Indian movies of my day. For example, there's the Decades-Long Search for the Beloved Missing Person meme that used to drive the plot of every other Indian movie. Usually it was a mother searching for a son separated from her since young age. In Slumdog Millionaire it's a boy searching for a girl he loved since childhood. Anyway. There's also the Improbable Coincidences meme. I'm referring to a certain scene in the finale. Well, it wasn't a completely improbable coincidence, since it was logically set up to be that way. And I have to say it played out cleverly, what with a real-life- and a televised drama converging over a cell phone. I liked it.

So overall it is a good escapist movie. It's heartfelt and sincere, and the characters will make you root for them. Not a bad way to spend 2 hours. But I wouldn't go see it if I wanted some more thought-provoking.

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