I am about to tell you something that may get me kicked out of the club:
I didn't love Slumdog Millionaire.
It won 8 Oscars. It's an indie hard luck story. It's directed by Danny Boyle, the genius behind Trainspotting. Everybody has been raving about it for months. So yes, my expectations were pretty high when Mark and I finally went to see it last night. And I can't say that they were dashed; it's not by any stretch a bad movie, it's just not that good a movie, either.
First, things I liked about it: The music is incredible--those two Oscars were certainly deserved. The cinematography is very,very good (it's done by Anthony Dod Mantle, who was the director of photography on that extremely problematic Lars von Trier film Dogville, which also had really interesting cinematography). And I really liked the lead, Dev Patel. Also, the dance scene during the credits kicked ass.
But the story just didn't work. The concept is great--a "slumdog" is being questioned about possibly having cheated while winning a million or more on a game show and we learn through his memories why he knew the answers and how he was there in the first place. I definitely could have gone there with them. However, the film honestly seemed to be intentionally making everything trite and formulaic. The major plot accelerator, Jamal's (Patel) search for his long-lost love, Latika (Freida Pinto), left me cold. The relationship that should have been the most interesting, between Jamal and his brother, Salim, didn't really work either, and the portrayal got worse as they got older, with the adult Salim (Madhur Mittal) coming off as more laughable than anything else.
More than anything, as I watched the film, I was struck by how it seemed to be played to an American audience. Very little about it struck me as authentically Indian. It wasn't so much that it seemed exploitative (though it did, and you can read more about that in this Washington Post article), as it was that it seemed like Indian actors and scenery had just been injected into an American plot. I'd thought I was going to the theater to see something new, or at least slightly different, than your average American movie, but at the end of this film, I just felt like I was watching something I'd seen a million times before.