Slumdog Millionaire

by Chris Bertram on February 8, 2009

Just back from seeing “Slumdog Millionaire”: . Very good, I thought. No doubt those who know India and Mumbai would have a better critical perspective on the film’s portrayal of time and place, but as a piece of cinema it is superb. It isn’t a feel-good movie for the most part, though it is consistently funny when it isn’t being horrifying, and it does make you feel pretty good at the end. (I had tears in my eyes, but since that was also true of the closing scenes of Crocodile Dundee, you might not think that much of a test.) Of the three excellent films I’ve seen recently (the others being The Reader, good, and Baader-Meinhof Complex, terrific) this is the one I’d say that no-one should miss.



Alan 02.08.09 at 11:03 pm

And it just won the Bafta for best film, alongside Best Director for Danny Boyle.
I agree, excellent film. I haven’t seen the other two yet…


Colin Danby 02.08.09 at 11:53 pm

Cleverly-constructed plotwise and very nicely filmed, but dramatically well short of the Bollywood gangster genre it riffs off of. Some fine supporting performances, especially Anil Kapoor and Irfan Khan.


gc_wall 02.09.09 at 2:29 am

I was in Germany when Baadar and Meinhoff were finally captured. The official story was that in less than 24 hours both committed suicide while in captivity. The sick feeling I had then is a memory now, but it reminds me of what the state will do if a person or in this case two people upset the established order.


JoB 02.09.09 at 8:55 am

One of those rare occasions where an unashamedly popular movie is not only cool, but also unquestionably classic.


Ray 02.09.09 at 9:28 am

Oh, come on.
The lead character is a blank, the female lead is a prize without any will of her own, the brother is a cliche, and the holes in the plot… the less said the better.
You know that scene where the American tourists want to see ‘the real India’ and get ripped off? The cinema audience is laughing at itself.


Frank 02.09.09 at 9:48 am

The lead character is a blank? Like Ryan O’Neil in Barry Lyndon?

It does have typical Danny Boyle motifs: the chase through the streets, which introduces us to the environment the characters inhabit; the plunge into the toilet; the exploitation of tourists; even a reference to Sean Connery.

There were subtleties that I liked, though. The one that comes to mind is when the lads gatecrash the open-air opera. The tenor on stage (Orpheus)is singing to his ‘Eurydice’. Than there is a flashback to the moment when Latika fails to make it on to the train; and she’s left behind like Eurydice in Hades.

Anyroad, it is a far, far better film than The Reader.


william 02.09.09 at 10:07 am

Crocodile Dundee? I cried at Corcodile Dundee 2, but only because I paid full price.


Ray 02.09.09 at 10:23 am

Why does the lead character fall in love with the girl? He knows her for a few weeks when they’re kids, so he turns the city upside down to find her when he’s a teenager. Sees her again for a few hours, and so she’s the love of his life?
It’s completely unmotivated. But without that random love, he’s nobody and nothing.


Chris Armstrong 02.09.09 at 10:28 am

I enjoyed it, I thought it was a good film, but the fact that it’s in the running for so many awards makes me wonder if this is just a slow year… The cinematography etc was excellent, but the story was corny, the love interest very cheesy (i.e., in that regard alone a typical action film in which the heroine displays no particular romantic interest in the protagonist until he saves her, at which point she obligingly opts for him), there were a lot of one-dimensional characters, and I wasn’t surprised to see that the major actors were not in the running for any awards. But the cinematic depiction of India is often rather less than one-dimensional, so it was good to see a film that avoided many of the cliches, if not all of them.


christian 02.09.09 at 11:13 am

This is a film that I am very much looking forward to seeing, after the many high reviews and awards that this film has earned in the last few months.


novakant 02.09.09 at 11:33 am

Here’s an enlightening piece on the film by David Bordwell, that stands out because it’s analytical rather than judgmental.


JoB 02.09.09 at 11:34 am

The cinema audience is laughing at itself.

Precisely! A good movie for anybody that’s not looking for cheap fun at the expense of others.


Ray 02.09.09 at 11:36 am

Laughing at itself unwittingly


ejh 02.09.09 at 11:37 am

The lead character is a blank? Like Ryan O’Neil in Barry Lyndon?

Now there’s a desperately tedious film no matter how great the director and no matter how great it looks.


Ray 02.09.09 at 11:39 am


JoB 02.09.09 at 11:52 am

Ray, I guess your opinion of the wits of people is rather dim. Either that are you have a sixth sense for what other people think. May it be the case that with general agreement some unwittingly see unique chances of becoming ‘the special one’?

(story-wise some stories can be about why people fall in love, others can perfectly just be about what happens if they did – by your standards you can scrap 90% of the Ilias)


Frank 02.09.09 at 12:50 pm

Desperation and tediousness? An oxymoron, surely?


Dan Kervick 02.09.09 at 1:36 pm

I enjoyed the film very much. But it certainly is a feel-good film.

I saw it as part of the emerging trend of global cinema, the attempt to weave elements from different national film traditions around a story that is so universal and elemental that audiences all over the world can grasp and appreciate it. The story is extraordinarily simple:

There are two orphan brothers, who support each other through the travails of youth and hard times until one brother betrays the other. The betrayed brother is a knight pure of heart, and his quest for a chaste and perfect love keeps him on the true path through the sordid valley of filth, corruption and temptation. The betrayer chooses the dark path of murder and greed, but does not relinquish the seed of goodness entirely, and achieves redemption and atonement for his sins in the end.

There is also a girl who is loved, and is the cause of the brother’s division. She is held in a tower by the evil Lord, but holds onto her dream of true love and escape, and is finally rescued by the knight and his brother. The union of the young lovers promises the rebirth and survival of goodness in fallen and dangerous world.

Behind it all, there is a providence that shapes human ends, guiding all to the fulfillment of their destiny. God is great.


bert 02.09.09 at 7:07 pm

Slumdog’s critics make the perfect the enemy of the good.
In this case however it’s clear what the enemy of the good is.

Down with Forrest Gump 2!
Down with lumpen dimwit Brad Pitt!
Down with Brad Pitt’s lolling tongue!
Down, down, down with Benjamin bleedin Button!!


Charu 02.09.09 at 7:49 pm

It was sweet, I would rate it as a good ‘time-pass.’ Maybe because I grew up in Bombay/Mumbai and on Hindi Cinema/Bollywood, I thought it over-rated when viewed from that standpoint. But perhaps it is doing something with English/American cinema I did not catch, which is why everyone likes it so very much? I liked it, but I don’t ‘get’ the fuss.



PS: some suggestions for those who liked the movie — a sort of if you liked ‘Slumdog you will love XXX’ list which gives you enough genre-background to ‘read’ the film:

a) I know everyone highlights Sholay, but for my money, the best Bacchan flick was Deewar (look for the older deewar, there is a new film out by this name — this is the one with amitabh and shashi kapoor). There too you will get two brothers, one good one bad, growing up in the slums, etc. Much better dramatic tension…

b) Mumbai underworld: Parinda (which co-incidentally has Anil Kapoor in it). Parinda inaugurated a whole new mode of depicting the Bombay underworld (compare with the cinematic depictions of Deewar). Since then, Ram Gopal Varma has of course made the Bombay-underworld film an art form/genre of its own, esp with Satya.

c) Sarkar — though I liked Kamalahasan’s Guru (Tamil cinema) better.

d) While it doesn’t fit the genre, for a lovable underworld figure one is rooting for, who can go wrong with Munnabhai? Esp his very own quiz show victory in Lage Raho Munnabhai…

e) I sort of liked the use of the trains in Slumdog — for a prior film that used the trains (including shot of kids getting parted when running to train, but also as soundtrack, and as plot device in general), Yaadon ki Baraat (which has the added fun of Churaliya with Zeenat Aman, and three brothers separated-then-united).

Finally, must say Anil Kapoor’s performance was stellar in Slumdog — and since the original host of ‘Kaun Banega Karodpati?/Who wants to be a millionaire?’ was Bacchan, the touch with the qn about Bacchan on the quiz show was v. nice.

PPS: It occurred to me before hitting post that I couldn’t possibly be the only one who saw the genre references around bollywood, and did a quick google: and sure enough, Amitava Kumar’s review of Slumdog for Vanity Fair has similar references, the Irfan Khan Maqbool is an obvious brilliant one I am surprised I missed above given that he is also in Slumdog (Maqbool is an adaptation of Macbeth, and really good — for another Shakespearean adaptation in recent times, Omkara does Othello very well). Though I can’t say I get the connection to Shree 420, Devdas, Monsoon Wedding or Guide (they are important for the genre, but connection to Slumdog I don’t get…). And am surprised he missed Yaadon ke Baraat given the explicit visual reference to that running to catch the train sequence from the film in Slumdog…(Black Friday I haven’t seen so will take the reference to the sequence in Slundog on faith…). Full review at:


roac 02.09.09 at 8:20 pm

Agree with those who enjoyed the movie. Agree that it may indeed be the best movie of 2008, but if so that is a reproach to the industry. Agree with 19, in spades, about Benjamin goddamn Button.

The leads were indeed dim, but Anil Kapoor should have been nominated for an Oscar. I gather he is a big big star. I can certainly see why.


Chris Bertram 02.09.09 at 10:36 pm

A big thanks to Charu for those recommendations!


Muhammed 02.09.09 at 10:50 pm

Sentimental but enjoyable — I can see why it’s been overhyped.

Agree it’s a poor Oscar field. Lots of disappointing movies. Just got around to seeing Revolutionary Road, which I was halfway to deciding was an okay job when they absolutely butchered the ending. Apparently they had no clue what the damn book was about.


Charu 02.09.09 at 11:38 pm

Anytime, Chris! A minor edit and major correction:

a) Minor edit: Parinda is a Vidhu Vinod Chopra film, not a Ram Gopal Varma film in case anybody misreads that (Satya is the one by Ram Gopal Varma)

b) Major correction: ‘Kamalahasan’s Guru’ is a big mistype by me, apologies: that should have been Kamalahasan’s NAYAGAN: ref. is to Kamalahasan’s performance in the film Nayagan. The movie is by Mani Ratnam (who also made the film Guru starring Abhishekh Bacchan loosely based on the life of Dhirubhai Ambani).


nick s 02.09.09 at 11:44 pm

perhaps it is doing something with English/American cinema I did not catch, which is why everyone likes it so very much?

Not so much cinema, as costume drama: Slumdog Millionaire = Dickens in Mumbai. Since a lot of Indian films take their formal inspiration from Victorian triple-deckers, that’s not a bad fit, but you could give the street kids cloth caps and Sylvia Young cockernee accents and turn it into a recognisable period piece.

The Reader, on the other hand, is clearly going for a different synthesis of two proven Oscar-procuring techniques: the one involving the Holocaust, the other Kate Winslet with her kit off.


Anderson 02.09.09 at 11:58 pm

(Eminently deletable comment to reestablish my identify w/ CT as “Anderson” not “Muhammed” — truly, I am not worthy.)


Lazynative 02.10.09 at 1:30 am

Good film, it is on the whole, however a positive and feel-good film. Salaam Bombay is a bleaker, if still melodramatic look at slum life in Mumbai.


Richard Cownie 02.10.09 at 2:31 am

I saw the movie and enjoyed it – a good deal more than any of the Hollywood movies I’ve seen
recently. The characters are archetypes rather than aspiring to Western psychological realism, and
the plot is melodrama. And it borrows from many sources. But hey, all that was true of Shakespeare
as well. It borrows a lot of good stuff, and it puts it together with craft and verve. And most of
all, it uses the full power of music and the moving image to put the story across: when the boys
tumble off the train, and roll to the ground as teenagers, it’s elegant and effective cinematic
storytelling. Go see it.


LFC 02.10.09 at 4:39 am

I agree w/ the original post and comment #28. People who say this is a ‘feel-good movie’ don’t share my understanding of the phrase. A feel-good movie, as I understand it, is a gooey, treacly bunch of fluff that avoids all or most depictions of unpleasant or unsettling realities. The typical feel-good movie, Hollywood-style, has a narrow if not claustrophobic setting and concentrates closely on a few characters at the expense of any social context. This is not that kind of movie (and Dickens for that matter was not that kind of novelist).

Charu, above, doesn’t get ‘the fuss’ the film has made w UK/American audiences. Some of us (or maybe I should just speak for myself) know something about the subcontinent, may even have lived and/or traveled there, but haven’t necessarily seen many Bollywood or other Hindi (or Kannada, or Bengali, or etc) films. So I can’t read Slumdog against the genre background in the way Charu does. Rather I compare it mostly to the run of American films, even good ones, that I’ve seen as an occasional moviegoer over the years. And if that’s the reference point, it begins to become clearer why this movie has made a splash in the U.S.


Ben P 02.10.09 at 6:24 am

Best film of the year is, IMO, “The Wrestler.”

Slumdog is OK. I agree with those who praise the cinematography. But I also agree the characters are crap and one-dimensional and their major elements from the story that are just not very interesting or original. In a way, I think the film would be better if it played up its fairytale, magical realist sensibility more than it does. As it is, it seems kind of caught between a conventional (and quite poor) drama and a highly-stylized magical realist fairy tale.

I must say, after leaving the movie theater, I felt distinctly underwhelmed considering the hype. I think I’ve even seen better Danny Boyle movies – Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, but also Millions.


dave 02.10.09 at 1:26 pm

Couldn’t let comment #3 go by without calling ‘bullshit’. Baader was in jail for five years before he and his gang topped themselves. Yes, there are iffy elements to the ‘official’ story. But your version is pure crap.


Eszter 02.10.09 at 1:47 pm

Like Chris said in the original post, my thought after seeing this was that it was a must-see movie.

Like LFC above, I must have a completely different understanding of what a “feel-good movie” is because this certainly doesn’t qualify in my book.

Due to different life stages depicted by different actors throughout the movie, I think the acting was split up in a way that no one actor necessarily contributed enough for an award nomination. That doesn’t mean they didn’t do a good job, but no one of them individually did enough for that perhaps.


Ray 02.10.09 at 2:23 pm

Virtue is rewarded and evil is punished. How is this any less ‘feel-good’ than Star Wars?


Chris Bertram 02.10.09 at 2:40 pm

I missed #3. Since Baader killed himself a full 17 months after Meinhof, your memories of your time in Germany are clearly unreliable.


bert 02.10.09 at 2:50 pm

“… doesn’t qualify in my book …”

Don’t judge a book by its cover. The early marketing (in the UK at least) played up this aspect. At one stage, they pushed the tagline “feel-good movie of the year”, and one of their flacks talked publicly about pitching to the same market that had gone to see Mamma Mia.

Danny Boyle made clear his unhappiness in several interviews, and the approach has changed somewhat since.


Martin G. 02.10.09 at 3:49 pm

He’s thinking of the Baader-Ensslin etc suicide pact, which was a year and a half later.


JoB 02.10.09 at 3:58 pm

Well, if you feel good after having seen a good movie I guess all good movies qualify as feel-good moviers ;-)

Virtue rewarded? Being tortured, split from girlfriend, see girlfriend raped by brother, who is ending up getting killed by saving girl friend by being treated as sex slave, …

Evil punished? The torturing cop walks way, the game show host remains popular, the maffioso gets to keep the money and most of the girls, …


bert 02.10.09 at 5:40 pm

Just passed a bus with a Slumdog ad on it.
“Feel-good film of the decade” is the quote they’ve used.
So not much of a change of approach there.


Ray 02.11.09 at 9:21 am

Virtue rewarded – the hero goes through all these trials, and at the end he wins the game and gets the girl. ‘Virtue rewarded’ doesn’t mean the hero doesn’t suffer during the story, it means his suffering is not in vain and he wins in the end.
Evil punished – the gangster dies, the brother dies, the Fagin guy dies…


JoB 02.11.09 at 10:33 am

OK-OK, Ray, peace! It’s only a movie after all.


novakant 02.11.09 at 12:00 pm

‘Virtue rewarded’ doesn’t mean the hero doesn’t suffer during the story, it means his suffering is not in vain and he wins in the end.

Hmm, by that measure an awful lot of movies would qualify as feel-good movies. Triumphing over obstacles, emerging as a stronger person and achieving some sort of closure – those are all very common narrative devices. Conversely it is quite rare that the protagonist fails across the board, regresses emotionally or faces utter hopelessness in the end.

Slumdog has a classical happy end, sure, but the suffering along the way is so graphic and it is depicted as the result of widespread social problems, that I think most viewers will have mixed, rather than unequivocally good feelings.


Ray 02.11.09 at 2:23 pm

I think the big dance scene at the end is a subtle clue that you’re supposed to leave the cinema with a smile on your face.


Righteous Bubba 02.11.09 at 3:00 pm

Even in the big dance scene the object of desire has a large scar on her face.


Ray 02.11.09 at 3:13 pm

You’re right, she’s totally ugly now. People were throwing up in the aisles of the cinema when I saw it.


Righteous Bubba 02.11.09 at 3:21 pm

You’re right, she’s totally ugly now.

Not the point, Mr. Arbiter of Meaning.


Chris Bertram 02.11.09 at 3:23 pm

It hardly seems worth arguing about guys, but I did write, in the original post “It isn’t a feel-good movie _for the most part_ ” (emphasis added). IIRC, no children were maimed in Four Weddings and a Funeral (contains one sudden death, admittedly), Notting Hill, or Love Actually. And it isn’t the same type of film as those.


Ray 02.11.09 at 3:41 pm

No, it is not a rom-com, you’re right there. But really, how high are you putting the bar for ‘feel-good movie’? Are there more than two movies in the universe that count?

The hero wins the prizes* and then they all have a big dance at the end. Schindler’s List it isn’t.

*yeah, one of the prizes has a scar. Does anyone in the movie seem bothered by this?


Righteous Bubba 02.11.09 at 3:54 pm

Does anyone in the movie seem bothered by this?

This is a remarkable way to interpret movies.


Ray 02.11.09 at 4:01 pm

(you can tell I have work I should be doing, right?)

Hit #1 for “feel good movie”
“Sometimes there are days when you need to lift your spirits – perhaps after a hard day at work – and watching an uplifting film can give you just such a boost. A movie doesn’t necessarily have to be a comedy to make you feel good – in fact, any movie that leaves you with a great feeling as the credits roll at the end will be a good one to watch. Always inspiring, ‘feel-good’ movies often take you down a road of sadness only to bring you back up with a triumphant ending, ultimately leaving you feeling great.

The first two films they list are “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Dead Poets Society


Ray 02.11.09 at 4:07 pm

48 – What is your point then? Love Interest has a scar at the end. A visual reminder of the suffering that we saw earlier in the movie. But nobody cares that she has a scar – she’s not traumatised, the hero doesn’t mind, and the audience still think she looks great – so what does it matter? Whatever suffering there was is washed away in the happy ending.


Righteous Bubba 02.11.09 at 4:16 pm

A visual reminder of the suffering that we saw earlier in the movie.

That was my point.

Whatever suffering there was is washed away in the happy ending.

Obviously it wasn’t. The scar is a device for the audience to see: the relevant characters in the film know what the deal was.

In any case I liked it, you liked it, it made you cheerful, it made me glad I saw a good movie. That’s nice.


Ray 02.11.09 at 4:22 pm

(Actually, I went in expecting to enjoy it but it started annoying me pretty early, and by the end I’d gone over to “not liking this” territory. Pointing out the flaws is fun though)

The characters in the movie used to be sad, but at the end they are really, really happy. Apart from the bad ones, who are all dead. I don’t see the deep ambiguity there.


JoB 02.11.09 at 4:41 pm

Ray, maybe you crossed into that territory because you were looking for flaws (seeing that the others were enjoying themselves and thinking ‘I’ll sound very intelligent if I say I didn’t like it’) because the mob boss is alive, the torturer is alive, the game show host is alive and the mother’s well and truely death, as is the child beggar well and truely blind (but not as blind as you having fun though, LOL).


Ray 02.11.09 at 10:05 pm

….right, because it’s simply not possible for anyone to just dislike the movie’s faults and be amazed by how popular it is. Do I need to list some popular entertainments that I too enjoy?
btw, the mob boss is dead at the end, killed by the brother, one torturer is won over by our hero, the other is the butt of jokes, and the game show host is defeated, his credibility damaged. The mother was onscreen for all of two minutes and her death, like all the other bad things that happened, is part of the forgotten past.
If this isn’t a feelgood movie, what is? The Shawshank Redemption appears on a lot of lists – but Tim Robbins’ wife is killed, he spends years in prison, other inmates are murdered and kill themselves…


Keir 02.11.09 at 11:20 pm

In fact, the scar functions as even more of a feel-good factor — see, it’s True Love, not just infatuation.

Of course it’s a bloody feel-good film*; that’s the point. Quite what difference that makes to judging the film is beyond me. It is possible for a feel-good flick to be a good film.

* Unless you have an unusable over strict definition of fell-good.


Righteous Bubba 02.11.09 at 11:54 pm

It is true that each episode of Hogan’s Heroes had a happy ending. HA HA.


daelm 02.12.09 at 9:31 am

the point that ray circles, in my mind, is less that the movie is a ‘feel-good film’, and more that it is a bad film masquerading as a good film, by means of a lot of sleight of hand.

the characters are flat, undeveloped and one-dimensional. the film goes from scene to scene with no real pace, each scene has more or less the same (monotonous) tempo and more or less the same structure – build-up, tension, pat resolution, end. what’s annoying is that it hides these flaws under good cinematograpgy and faux-naturalism. the pesudo-grittiness of each vignette is expected to make up for the lack of real characters and the lack of real story.

the film takes adavantage of an interest in bollywood that’s been growing for a while to represent itself as more than it is and is basically dishonest. the films makes (visual) claims to being more than merely cardboard rubbish – makes claims on the audience, that is – but doesn’t deliver. despite liking it, i felt cheated after watching it, like i’d been palmed off with junk food after being promised a meal.

if you don’t believe this, consider that you could replace the two indian leads with brendan fraser and anne hathaway, without any significant rewrite and the movie would proceed exactly as it currently does, without a hitch.

would you still think it was brilliant then?


Keir 02.12.09 at 12:17 pm

if you don’t believe this, consider that you could replace the two indian leads with brendan fraser and anne hathaway, without any significant rewrite and the movie would proceed exactly as it currently does, without a hitch.

All this proves is that (a) actors don’t matter SFA if there’s a good enough director and (b) india isn’t too different to America.


JoB 02.12.09 at 12:42 pm

Ray, I didn’t want to make you feel less good & I kinda side with Keir: the movie made me feel good and I don’t see what that has to do with nog being a good movie (unless you are somehow masochistic on the cinema front).

The reason you keep me going on this is that you kinda side with daelm here:

it is a bad film masquerading as a good film,

which puzzles me immensely. Is there a ‘deep structure’ to movies that movies need to have for them to be ‘good’? If so, how can you know whether that ‘deep structure’ is there as, assumably, any direct evidence could be just a question of ‘masquerading’?

PS: we can go on & on with factoids, your original claim was absurd


Ray 02.12.09 at 1:11 pm

I wasn’t arguing that Slumdog is bad because it’s feel-good. I was arguing that Slumdog is bad, and it is feel-good (and I’m still amazed that people are denying that second clause)

As for why it is bad… well, as I said in my first post, the characters are unmotivated and two-dimensional – that’s my main gripe, I suppose. Also, as daelm says above, I think the film makes claims for seriousness that it doesn’t back up. This relates to the feel-good argument – people seem to be crediting the movie for showing poverty and pain in the beginning and somehow thinks this makes it more complex than it really is. It’s a rags-to-riches story where the hero gets the money and the girl at the end. The cinematography and editing are good and the location is exotic so it’s visually interesting, but that’s all superficial.
Does it say anything about modern India?* Do the characters have any weight? Does it reflect the human condition in any serious way? Is there any sort of existential dilemma at the heart of the film? Does it embody an interesting and original theory of the art of cinema? In what way does it rise above the template?

*OMG, poor people! doesn’t count


Clive 02.12.09 at 1:52 pm

I think Ray makes some reasonable points. But still, I found the film charming and enjoyable – and well, not shit. That’s still a reasonable response to a film, isn’t it? The film is what it is. It’s not *intended* to – for instance – ’embody an… original theory of the art of cinema.’ If that’s one of your criteria for a good movie, I imagine very few indeed live up to it.


Ray 02.12.09 at 2:12 pm

If Slumdog had had characters I could believe in, even for the length of the movie, I’d probably agree with you on ‘charming and enjoyable’ and would have been happy with that. (I don’t expect/require a movie to succeed on all of those criteria, btw, but I’d want something that lifts a movie. )


Clive 02.12.09 at 2:52 pm

Actually, when I was watching it I was thinking of the things I’d say if I was going to trash it, and they were much in the vein of your comments. Does anyone else find this – I find it much more with film than TV – I sort of make a decision at some point whether I like it or not…?

In the end though, it just seemed churlish to hate it. It’s got a real energy to it. And though for sure there are inconsistencies in the central character (how does a slumdog end up working in a call centre?) it certainly seemed to me he *was* a character, who grew.


Ray 02.12.09 at 3:04 pm

I often make that decision before I go into the movie. I’m going to see Coraline (in 3D) over the weekend, and it’s pretty much purely for the spectacle. I’m not expecting psychological complexity, and won’t complain if it isn’t there.


JoB 02.12.09 at 3:50 pm

Ray, fair enough but ‘It’s a rags-to-riches story where the hero gets the money and the girl at the end.’ is a similar line to ‘a feel-good movie’. Many good stories are re-runs of prototypical ones – so my puzzle remains: what ‘deep structure’ is required for you since clearly stuff on the surface is never good enough.


Ray 02.12.09 at 3:54 pm

comment 60, para 3 for examples


daelm 02.13.09 at 9:09 am

anthony lane, at the new yorker, also has his doubts. excerpts below from his review, here

“Strictly speaking, there are no surprises in this movie, and most people will be able to predict, within the first ten minutes, roughly how the last ten will pan out. What is surprising is the unembarrassed energy that Boyle devotes to his pursuit of the obvious; there’s nothing wrong with the formulaic, it would appear, so long as you bring the formula to the boil.”

everyone else just seems to have got excited that there’s finally a bollywood movie they can enjoy without nhaving to contend with the embarassment of a fat guy in a turban singing while floating on clouds. this movie is gritty!! real!! tough!!

the trainspotting ambience of the vignettes serves a couple of purposes – first, it gives free ‘cool’ to a story that could just as easily have been told through the medium of a large, carboard book with VERY. BIG. LETTERS, and and second, it disguises the fact that even the narrative within each vignette never rises above the level of dickens at his worst.

i may just be a total misanthrope, and incapable of the finer human sentiments, but it seems to be a very cheap trick to serve up the kind of junk that’s on display in this film, and take cover behind the overwhelming suffering imputed to the characters, to avoid criticism of the superificality with which their story is told.

basically, the discussions online (not just here) seem to consist of:

how can you not like it??? poor people!!!! indians!!!!! suffering!!!! don’t you want them to be happy? etc


daelm 02.13.09 at 9:10 am

preview function is poor, btw. :)


daelm 02.13.09 at 9:35 am

another thing, before i address the work i’m avoiding :).

there’s a feeling in general, and certainly one that’s come up on this thread, that being a ‘feel-good film’ buys a movie a certain amount of slack, that we have lowered expectations of a feel-good film.

but feel-good films needn’t be bad – it’s not an either/or situation. there are a whole lot of films that make me feel good, and (less subjectively put) which follow an uplifting arc, that are very very good as films overall. ‘Kolya’, for example, is a complete ‘feel-good’ film, by every definition and it manages to inhabit similar kinds of terrain to that which Slumdog Millionaire merely uses as a set – that of societies in transition, the decisions people make when faced with poverty, loyalty to family clashing with brute survival, the effects of political upheaval and so on.



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