There's a scene towards the beginning of Slumdog Millionaire that, if you think about it, is really quite an apt metaphor for the film as a whole and my reaction to it. A young Indian boy named Jamal (played at this point by Ayush Mahesh Khedekar) is locked in an outdoor bathroom- which, in reality, is nothing more than a hole in the ground- by his angry brother because he drove away a paying customer. When a famous and beloved Bollywood star lands in a helicopter near the area, his brother leaves Jamal locked in the toilet and goes running towards the commotion that has arisen. Jamal beats on the door but no one can hear him. He then looks down at the hole in the ground and is forced to make a decision: miss the chance to meet his idol and stay clean or jump in the pile of shit and get his coveted autograph. Needless to say, Jamal decides on the latter and, drenched in feces and piss, runs up to the star and asks for the autograph.
Confused? Let me break it down: Slumdog Millionaire is Jamal at this moment, a film so eager to accomplish something so insignificant that it isn't aware that the journey it took to reach its destination was nothing more than a trek through a pile of shit.
Yeah, so I'm afraid I have to dissent from the Golden Globes, nearly every critic's organization in the country and a good majority of the nation's film critics/bloggers- Slumdog is one of the worst movies of the year and here are the ten main reasons why I hated it so much.
1. White Liberal Guilt
The first half in particular, in which the three young children are forced to survive on the mean streets of the slums of India, hinges on the hope that white Westerners will get choked up at the ordeals these kids are not only put through, but survive. You can almost hear Our Lord and Saviour, Oprah telling her audience full of white, middle-class housewives, "I've seen it peopleeeeeeee! This movie will change your life and give you hope!" You can imagine Brangelina at a private screening whispering to each other about how they need to adopt a little Indian baby next.
I'm not sure if the structure of the screenplay is based on the book the film is adapted from (I've never read it or ever intend to), but Simon Beaufoy's treatment is the laziest, most repetitive script of this Oscar season. There is nothing surprising about anything concerning the structure of the film: you know that with every question that is asked, we are going to get some long, turgid flashback that will "cleverly" show us the random, inexplicable moments in his life when the question was brought up. I can't believe this script is getting attention when there are so many other screenplays that also took chances with ordinary themes and subjects and took them in unparalleled- and unpredictable- places (Happy-Go-Lucky, In Bruges, The Visitor).
3. "Oh look, they're running again."
Was it just me or did the first two or three flashbacks consist of nothing but people running away for whatever reason? And considering that these flashbacks cover a good 10 to 15 minutes of the first 20 minutes, this could be a problem.
Okay, you would seriously need to be the densest person on the planet if you can't guess what the final question (or, at least, the subject of the final quesion) will be as soon as it was brought to our attention. The whole film seems to suffer from this- every theme and new idea is pounded into our heads with the subtletly of a jackhammer.
5. "When did they learn English?"
I'm sorry, but how in the hell did Jamal and his brother learn to speak English? Did I miss the scene where they stopped fending for their lives on the streets to go to school to get a proper education?
6. Dev Patel
I'm not saying he's a bad actor by any means and he was actually quite adorable at the Golden Globes, but isn't this the most overrated performance of the year? The role requires nothing more of Patel than to sit there, stare and act uncomfortable around everyone. It's an incredibly one-note role than no one could have done much with and yet a multitude of critics' organizations are citing him for Breakthrough Performance of the year? Say what?
7. Feelgood Film...?
...Maybe if you're a sadist and get turned on by electrocution, mass murder (in the name of God, at that!) and children being blinded.
8. I liked this movie better five years ago when it was called City of God
Glenn subtly mentioned this when he saw the film a couple of weeks ago and I just couldn't shake the comparisons. Fernando Meirelles' breakthrough was also about a Brazilian child of the slums who survives some pretty gruesome shit and, incredibly, escapes the dire poverty of his upbringing. The only major difference I can see is that, you know, City of God is actually a good movie and doesn't rely on mucky, inspirational fluff to get its message across.
9. Foreign Arthouse Film- Hollywood Style
Director Danny Boyle tries to give Slumdog some grit and arthouse credibility with his offbeat cinematography (check out those crazy colors, man!) and editing, but for all of it's attempts to be un-Hollywood, Slumdog is really a typical Oscar bait film. Instead of saying something new or daring about the lives of these children of the slums, the film tries to sucker you through "heart," "emotion" and "tears." I'm sure I'll hear in response to this post, "Oh, don't you feel bad for those poor children? You must have no soul if you weren't moved by Slumdog." Well, yes, I did feel bad for the children- no one should be forced to live like that- but I can name five more interesting films that say the same things about that topic as this film. What makes this one any better?
10. Critic Attention
This past Sunday at the Golden Globes, as I'm sure you're all well aware, Slumdog went 4/4, picking up Best Picture (Drama), Director, Screenplay (?!) and Original Score (the only aspect of the movie I liked). This was the precise moment when I realized I needed to say something. Have people lost their fucking minds? I'm sorry to be so blunt, but, Jesus Christ, all the critics are acting like they've never seen a film before this one. Danny Boyle did not invent India, Bollywood, slum children or feel good-iness. It almost makes me sick that this film will probably win the Best Picture Oscar in a couple of months; not only would it be the worst winner since Shakespeare in Love (sorry, I can't stand that movie) but it's also fairly reminiscent of a much maligned (and for good reason) Best Picture winner from the 70's: Rocky. Imagine how embarrassing it will be in 20 years when we have to admit to our children/grandchildren a mistake as silly and avoidable as picking Slumdog for Best Picture; I'm sure it will look just as foolish as Rocky does now. D+