Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Slumdog Millionaire": one of the years best films

Tonight I convinced my daughter, Kid Curmudgeon, to go see "Slumdog Millionaire," a film I had already seen at "Talk Cinema" at the AFI and had loved.

The film, filmed entirely on location in Mumbai, was co-directed by British filmmaker Danny Boyle (Trainspotting , Millions, Sunshine, 28 Days Later...) and Indian female director Loveleen Tandan (casting director on Mira Nair's "Vanity Fair" and "Monsoon Wedding," as well as 2nd assistant director on "Monsoon Wedding").

"Slumdog Millionaire" tells the story of Jamal Malik, a kid from the Mumbai slums who improbably becomes a contestant on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire." The story is told through flashbacks explaining just how Jamal came to know all the answers to the questions he is asked on the show, which he knows as it turns out, by virtue of his life experiences surviving in the slums with his brother Salim and the little girl he rescued and came to love, Latika.

The film covers the lives of the 3 principals at ages 7, 14, and 21, played of course by three sets of actors, the youngest being actual non-actor Mumbai street kids.

The adults are played by Dev Patel (Jamal Malik) a British Actor of Indian parentage known in the US primarily for starring in the BBC series "Skins," Madhur Mittal (Salim Malik) a novice Indian actor, and Freida Pinto (Latika) a beautiful Mumbai model and TV host acting in her first movie.

The film is mostly told in English (which should help its US box office) with English subtitles for the Hindi parts.

Filmed in a frenetic, semi-documentary style by Anthony Dod Mantle ("The Last King of Scotland"), I would describe Slumdog Millionaire as "City of God" meets "Oliver Twist" meets "Monsoon Wedding" and "The Darjeeling Limited ," but that would be selling it short. The film is a wonderfully inventive evocation of a milieu foreign to most of us, told in a completely novel way (based on the novel "Q&A" by Vikas Swarup and screenwritten by Simon Beaufoy ("The Full Monty")).

Ultimately, Kid Curmudgeon puts "Slumdog Millionaire" in the top 5 movies of her life (she's a teenager) and I put it as one of my top two movies of 2008 (along with Jonathan Demme's "Rachel Getting Married"). Highly recommended in any case.

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