31 December 2008

It is Written: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

I flat out love Danny Boyle, and I'm not afraid to admit it.

What makes Boyle a great and brave filmmaker is that he's always teetering on the edge of over direction and unnecessary strangeness, but (with the exception of the very bizarre The Beach) he has the skill to never quite fall over the line. His films have always celebrated a kind of magical realism, whether it be through visions of dead babies climbing on the ceiling, manifestations of Hindu gods, or visions of patron saints.

Really, the only fairly bland entry in his diverse filmography is A Life Less Ordinary, the one time Boyle attempted to make (essentially) a typical Hollywood romantic comedy, casting Cameron Diaz in the lead, an actress who might as well change her name to 'we've run out of ideas' at this point.

Boyle needs to take risks. He needs to indulge his inner schoolboy and let his imagination run wild to keep himself engaged in the process. He'll never really fit in among mainstream Hollywood because of it, and I really hope he doesn't try.


Listen, I don't want to like out myself here as cold hearted but I really cannot stand children in movies about 90% of the time. Every time I see a trailer for a movie starring Jayden Smith or Connor Cruise, I can practically smell the contract negotiations and Caesar Salads eaten by lawyers and publicists in development meetings. I was really happy with the kids in this movie. A LOT of this movie relies on the performances of the kids playing the younger versions of the film's 3 main characters, and (as Boyle has proven before) Boyle knows how to direct children. The kids are cute, without being precocious. The kids are skilled, without feeling unbelievably over rehearsed and hollow.

Dev Patel is, as many have already noted, charming as Jamal, and Frieda Pinto is likeable, sweet, and really knows how to look alluring in lots of yellow, but if I were to single out one performance, I would probably highlight Madhur Mittal's work as the adult version of Jamal's older brother, Salim. With what probably amounts to no more than a maximum of 10 minutes of screen time, Mittal makes a pretty distinct impression that should be getting a lot more press.

Slumdog Millionaire is a really interestingly and beautifully realized Dickensian fable that only a maniac like Danny Boyle could have directed.

Oh . . . and my co worker has a theory that anyone who walks out before the credits sequence is over has no soul. He may be right.

(Yes, I'm rooting for it come Oscar time)


Matt said...

the credits sequence sums up the movie as essentially a celebration of life, especially in the Indian culture... wow, yeah, some of the best "child" performances here, that's why the acting awards will be short for the movie, there's just no way to find which actor for each character does the best job.

nick plowman said...

"Yes, I'm rooting for it come Oscar time"

YES. As am I :)

Stefano said...

Hi!..I definitely agree with your co-worker!..the closing credits dance is something like the icing on the cake for such a magnificent movie!..it would really be an unforgivable sin to disregard them!;)..

OVNIMIND said...

This movie disturbed me the first time I saw it. seeing children go through such abuse and neglect and violence stirred a great deal of memories for me.

When i was in college I did a thesis on street kids, and I could not even go near India (specifically Calcutta.) i stuck with the thesis that the killing of Street Kids in Brazil was a base part of the econimic infrastructure. So to see it on screen was AWESOME in effect! It turned my stomach.

I do not agree that Danny borders on Over dramatizing..not like M. Night Shyamalan...

However Danny as an "outsider" sticks to his guns as a Brit Movie Maker putting the raw components in their place. Something that Bollywood could not have done in such a way. He reserves a certain respect for the story, its language, and human interactions.

It is an amazing Human Story that, in my opinion, preserves the intrisic values and challenges of contemporary and classic Indian history and culture.

It is a story that needed to be told.

It was written.

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