I grumbled and groaned and then finally saw Juno last year and Little Miss Sunshine the year before. And when it was over I finally had to admit, yeah yeah, those movies were a little overrated, but I can see what the fuss is about. Slumdog Millionaire, I’m proud to say, is two hours of junk.
Tonally, it is all over the place. Is this a gritty Pixote-esque look at third world poverty? Or is it a magical realist fable? That’s the vibe you get from the gimmick of the story (and what the book is probably like) but it doesn’t come off that way. What we do get is a lot of flashy cinematography and musical montages from Danny Boyle. This works like gangbusters in Sunshine and Trainspotting, but basically ruins any emotion in this film. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’s closing credits score meant to usher in a triumphant montage, unironically? I don’t think I can get aboard this train.
And it is also really offensive to women. Is this gal just a prize, like the 20 million rupees? Is she just a five year old with a beautiful smile, or is she the abused mistress of a mafia kingpen? (And what was up with that whole mafia side-story? Was I supposed to know what was going on there? Or care?) All I know is that the woman’s story probably would have been a lot more interesting than seeing the clever way we can work Benjamin Franklin into the plot.
And what of our lead character? Yeah, we root for him to win because we like a winner, but he is just a blank slate who is chasing after an idealized woman (who, once rescued with the newfound game show money, is going to need a lot of therapy) for fairy-tale reasons instead of living anything resembling a real life. Boyle would rather not worry about that and instead crank up the Bengal-infused techno and show off his color saturated, under-cranked cityscapes.
If this movie just came and went I’d probably just say “not for me.” But since it will probably win the Academy Award, I will now lead a charge against its awfulness the likes of which you haven’t seen since I got all cranky against Crash.
(The scenes at the Taj Mahal were cool – but, again, in terms of tone, a jigsaw puzzle with the rest of the movie. Feh.)