Sunday, February 01, 2009

It's A Slum Dog Life For Us

Actually watching Slumdog Millionaire- after my expressions of pre-formed hatred- was a strange experience, because it meant I actually found legitimate reasons to dislike it. And, perhaps, come to terms with the fact that it wasn't quite as dreadful as I was expecting.

I mean, don't get me wrong. It was still bad. Dreadfully cliched and inconsistently photographed. Inanely predictable and dully acted. But it was hard to get riled up against. One of the friends I went with was repeatedly checking her watch for the last half hour or so (and she liked it!), which basically points towards the inevitable conclusion: it was boring. Sure, all the rubbish about destiny might have got up my nose, but it also robs the film of any impetus: of course they're going to end up together, and of course he's going to win, because it is written. And when you don't particularly care about the characters- which it's hard to do when Dev Patel and Freida Pinto (okay, so she's pretty. And?) play them so uncharismatically (the preceding child actors were mostly good, though- why not award them?).

Structurally, there are big problems. If it had gone strictly down the route of THIS is where I got THIS answer from, it might've been easier to swallow the laughable generalizations and alarmingly shallow dips into this cultural pool. You can't throw it tidbits about child labour or gangster's whores or whatever without also expressing where these things come from. According to Simon Beaufoy, it seems, they simply come from the world's desire to kick poor Jamal's ass as hard as it possibly can (so you love him so much more). It's a fable, maybe. But it can't also throw it obviously real details like that early attack on the Muslims and still use the fable excuse. How shallow and naive do you want to be? You might as well have killed his mother via spontaneous combustion.

Early on the energy is good. Some of the camera framings are alarmingly clumsy and I didn't really appreciate the subtitling going all over the map (is this a comic book? No!), but the sharp, frenetic editing kicks the film off at a marvellous pace. The score- bar some awkward placement issues with M.I.A.'s marvellous Paper Planes- also adds to this hyper-kinetic feeling. But it also dissipates as we progress through the story with the second versions of the kids. It's hard to pinpoint where, exactly, but everything just slipped away. If I could've fallen asleep, I probably would've (uncomfortable cinema alert). And when that phone call occurs- was anyone surprised? I figured it out as soon as he said he was phoning a friend. It was probably easy to figure it out as soon as the phone was passed to the recipient of the call (this is me being deliberately vague).

And there's the nib. It may be written, but in that case why do we need to watch it? (I did like the dance at the end, though. Fun.) C-


Dame James Henry said...

Amen! I'm glad to see someone else who noticed the same flaws in Shitdog Millionaire as I did. The screenplay really is a mess, isn't it? It's so predictably and the structure just doesn't allow for any suspense or drama- all we do get is torture and, as you put it, a "desire to kick poor Jamal's ass as hard as it possibly can"

Dave said...

I did love your "10 Things I Hate About..." on this. Looking back, they're all so true.

They also appear to have renamed the book from "Q & A" to "Slumdog Millionaire", which strikes me as a bit disrespectful. I won't be reading it though.