Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Danny Boyle Millionaire

Whilst I can appreciate that the man has to make a living, I find it outrageously exploitative and just down-right offensive to find his treatment of "slum-life" in India so highly stylised and so desperately cliched. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) is a film predicated upon the inventive narrative concept of a how a young extraordinarily disadvantaged child -who narrowly escapes a life of begging for an organised crime lord - goes on to be a contestant on, no wait - the winner of, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? And yet, despite its inherently imaginative premise, the film is so concerned with commerical "feel-good" appeal that it glosses over some highly confronting and desperately sad realities of the so-called "slum-life" it (mis)represents.

For example, there is a scene in which the two young boys, who serve as our protagonists, must steal and sell goods on a train as a means by which to live on. Despite this being an horrific reality for young, homeless, parentless children who have just escaped the clutches of an organised crime leader, the experience is shown through what can only be described as a very tacky montage sequence which shows the two boys smiling, laughing, and for all intents and purposes, presumably having fun, this is matched to a soundtrack of the recent pop song by MIA, Paper Planes (All I Wanna do is 'Bang Bang' and Take Your Money). Now I can't be entirely sure that the reason Boyle chose this song is for the incredibly transparent effect the children's voices on the track provide, though I'd be more than confident in suggesting it's a motivating factor; the boys are immediately framed as taking rather than surviving which leads to the inference that they are enjoying and profiteering from their actions. This is but one of many examples that can be drawn from Boyle's incredibly misguided and intensely disappointing 8 Oscar Winning film, that clearly expose it for the shallow and superficial trite that it is.

Essentially, the question that the film provokes is by no means new, inventive, or even imaginative, but rather more and more pressing in an increasingly homogeneous climate, and that is one surrounding who has the right to represent. Kate Winslet crooned on the red carpet that it was "so great" that they had brought "the little children" from India all the way to the Oscars. Why is it so remarkable that the people whom the film is supposedly about be allowed to attend? And why then is the director, who as far as I can see really has nothing to do with the situation upon which the film is based, not only allowed to attend, but given an award? I'm sure that there are many people involved in the film who, off the back of its success, will go on to become millionaires, but i seriously doubt that it will be the self-titled "slumdog(s)".


  1. Hooray for the Midnight Movie Reviews!! This will now be my first stop for critical evaluation of movies!

    Am in agreement that Slumdog essentially amounts to 'superficial trite' :)

    I don't object in principle to the idea of presenting Jamal's experience in a very positive and stylised light - I can buy into the idea that some children would develop a very resilient 'rose-tinted' view of their lives..

    I even think the child's optimistic, illusory world v.s. the reality could have had quite a powerful effect (like 'the little match girl')... but as you say, the dark parts are glossed over or misrepresented, which makes the departures into joyful fantasy seem shallow and unearned. Without the contrast of dark against light.. bitterness to balance the sweetness.. it's just candyfloss..all sweetness, no substance... and it just leaves you feeling a bit sick!!

  2. Well, I must say that was an incredible in-depth review, from a refreshing new perspective.
    So nice to know that not everyone buys into the popular premise that this is the be all and end all of films portraying the plight of the underprivileged in Mother India.

    I havent seen the film and now wont bother - must say though that your father enjoyed it, being a former inhabitant, I believe he was surprised that he understood so much of the Hindi language, long thought forgotton!! Ah the recesses of the human brain are not to be underestimated!!!
    ms scrobbitt mobbitt