Hype, hype, bastard HYPE.
It’s not the fault of Danny Boyle or his talented young cast that Slumdog Millionaire has been so ridiculously overhyped this past couple of weeks. It’s the fault of journalists and TV magazine shows, all champing at the bit to speak with supposed expertise about a film they consider to be not only beautifully shot and acted (which it is), but also worthy. They think that by singing the praises of the film without questioning any aspect of it, they earn themselves kudos rather than cynicism from those of us who, having watched it and made our own minds up, have realised the film’s got a few problems in the process.
It doesn’t help, when wishing to watch with fresh eyes, that the movie has been endlessly trailed. You’ll have seen about three quarters of it, including pivotal moments, before you even enter the bloody picture house. You’ll know exactly what the first half’s about and you’ll have guessed the outcome of the second half if you’ve got even one lobe left in your grey matter after the endless barrage of praise that accompanies each plot-ruining clip featured on every current affairs or entertainment show going.
So I don’t need to run through the plot. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know it. If you haven’t, you’ll have been told. What I can tell you is that, in my humble opinion, the first half is visually brilliant and depicts the life of the Mumbai slum-children sympathetically, if simplistically. The flashback scenes using children under the age of sixteen, speaking in their Hindi mother-tongue, are the best aspect to the movie. I wished it had stuck to format the moment the two male leads grew older and the dialogue snapped to English. As it did, the believability of the first half was binned in favour of an ill-advised take on magic realism that didn’t satisfy this here curmudgeon.
Reducing the sufffering of the characters to a fabricated Millionaire wish fulfilment conclusion just felt half-arsed. This was compounded by the fact that the love interest had barely a line in the whole film and we had no sense of who she was and how they had fallen for one another. All we’d seen them do was share a mattress, aged seven or eight.
Despite all that, the film’s worth a look for the visual aspect alone. The amazing opening half’s a seductive vision of a nightmare, paradoxically enough. Just don’t believe that it’s profound, feelgood, or deals sensitively with major issues. Because it doesn’t really do any of those things.