Slumdog Millionaire

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Posted November 13, 2008 in Film

John Carpenter, the first grand prize millionaire of the USA’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire was showered with (momentary) fame. In Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan’s noisy fictional drama, India’s parallel 20-million rupee winner Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) was tortured for the implausibility of being a bottom caste brain when his superiors bottomed out at 60K. Complicating things, Jamal isn’t particularly bright—a credibility deficit screenwriter Simon Beaufoy overcomes by showing precisely which traumatic events etched random facts about movies, religion, and British geography into his mind—coincidentally, in the chronological order game show host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor) will later ask him as questions. Boyle’s film is weak in plotting, but strong in content; we can’t succumb to his contrivances but we’re invested in Jamal’s climb from hard-scrabble orphan to exploited urchin to proto preteen businessman showing tourists around the Taj Mahal despite knowing not a damned thing about it. In these scenes (for which child actors Tanay Chheda and Ayush Mahesh Khedekar play the younger and youngest Jamals), MIA’s “Paper Planes” blasts, adopting the credibility of desperate, money-hungry street living it didn’t get when layered over Seth Rogen toking up in Pineapple Express. This should be a furious story about strata; instead it tries to sell us a bogus romance between Jamal and his childhood love (Freida Pinto), now the mistress of the gangster who employs his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal). When they kiss at the ending, we roll our eyes—that’s not going to solve the problems that now infuriate us. Why, when Boyle has for half a film been such a devastating purveyor of social class suffering, would he turn as glossy as a Disney cartoon? (Amy Nicholson)

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