Sunday, May 3, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Well, it's official. I am definitely from another planet. I recently rented and just finished watching the highly acclaimed, Golden Globe and Academy Award winning "Slumdog Millionaire", and I found it brutal and disturbing. I also found the acting pedestrian and uninspired, and the plot predictable and boring. It was one of the longest, most disappointing 90 minutes I have ever wasted spent. What am I missing? I felt I was being manipulated. I have never seen so many children being punched in the head by adults -- I started to feel ill to my stomach. I really wanted to like this movie, but in fact I intensely disliked it. However, since it has received so many rave reviews, I feel there must be something wrong with me -- not with the movie. Sometimes if there is a movie that everyone likes, and I don't care for, I will watch it again just to see what I am missing. But, I don't think I could bear to sit through "Slumdog Millionaire" again.

If you haven't seen it, give it a try and then tell me what you think. If you have seen it, please tell me what I'm missing. I don't get it. I really must be from another planet.

39 comments:

iamcassandra said...

I think this is one of those "you like it or you don't" movies. Personally, I enjoyed it. I liked the way they chose to portray the story and (although predictable, but what movie isn't?) the story line.

I think you get a realistic image of third world countries. Sadly lots of children are beat on a regular basis. But there were also cute and funny moments of the movie.

I'm not sure if I feel it lives up to allll the hype, but I definitely liked it. At the same time, a lot of my friends didn't. So you aren't alone.

Book pusher said...

Actually I was also uncomfortable with this movie. I saw a review somewhere, (it may have been the Guardian not sure), that described it as poverty porn for the first world middle classes, I have to say that seemed to sum it up for me. This post should generate some interesting comment.

Sampoorna said...

Hi Jo, I know exactly how you feel. I haven't watched the movie yet. I've only seen the rushes and whatever has been shown in the movie is real. The beating part is even more real. That is how things work for those in slums and the middle class and low class families here. It sure is quite disturbing but like it or not that's the truth.

R

lovelyprism said...

I haven't watched it, but I somehow doubt I ever will. I don't think I could handle watching children brutalized.

Patricia Torres said...

Hi Jo, I've watched the movie as well. I'm not sure I liked any bit of the movie... even the lighter bits... were overshadowed by the harsh portrayal of the poor.

I do beleive that some of this is true and some of it really does happen in India. Dharavi is supposed to be the biggest slum in the world and children actually go through this kind of torture. However, I am not sure if it still exists to the extent showed in the movie. Some of it is true. But do you see anyone doing anything about it... even after the release of the movie??? Apart from getting awards, I'm not sure if the situation in the slums has improved in any way!

I've read some reviews where poeple are forming their opinion on India based on this movie. That is surely wrong.

I agree with you... I would not watch the movie again!!

SarahAB said...

I totally agree with you. We went to see it in the theatre and it was the first time I've EVER walked out on a movie (and I've sat through some terrible movies). I've got a toddler and am also pregnant, so my sensitivity to child brutality is especially high I guess.

I understand that some films bring conditions of third world countries to light, and I know that terrible things happen and awareness is important, but I don't think that this film portrayed such issues in a very effective, responsible, or productive light.

First of all (and this is more film industry/consumer thing): movie theatres are places of entertainment. You buy snacks, watch a few trailers, and settle in to be entertained. I can't watch children being tortured with a popcorn and soda in my hands. The disgusting joke of it all (the privileged sitting comfortably, leisurely watching torture and horrific exploitation) is simply too potent.

Secondly: the plot was really very terrible, too terrible for an oscar winner. The idea that each quiz question was somehow in line with the chronology of his life events was a major stretch, and plodding through the flashbacks was tedious and uninspired on the filmmakers' parts.

Finally: the moral of the story was essentially that money is the best and most important thing ever, and somehow makes up for all varieties of life tragedies. How shallow. Not exactly life-affirming.

I think it was a slow year for great flicks, and this one got bumped in due to its shock value and its manipulative sensationalist style.

I've ranted about this previously in my blog also, can you tell? :)

ivan said...

After an excellent novel/film like A Passage to India,it seems like current movie output makes you wonder who the hell wants to go.

Marlene said...

I, too, think this was a terribly violent movie. It did somehow capture the feeling one gets when they see slums in India, particularly Mumbai. Travelling in India a couple of years ago, I asked many times how this could happen to so many poor people in what is a somewhat British nation. The only answer I ever received was a shrug of the shoulders and the explanation that there are just too many people. There just seems to be no answers or solutions. I think that the developed world needs to have the opportunity to see this movie. Just maybe something can be done to improve this situation if the right person or people know about it.

Firefly said...

I haven't seen it, but will try

greenpanda said...

Yeah, I dont know why its a 'feelgood' film. It's not. But I loved it personally.

Miss_Nobody said...

Maybe it didn't live up to the hype,but I liked it,*Welcome to reality*,thats what it was.This is how things go in the slums,sad,but true..but thats not all to India

Divyendu said...

Yep...it's hard-hitting cinema, and quite disturbing, especially because kids are involved. I liked the parts played by the kids, and the music by Rahman was totally out of this world. You could say that the movie was over-rated, but most things shown in the film really happen...so...

white crow said...

JO, yes... the movie is overrated, but what u see there is real.
children are treated even more badly in some places than u can imagine...
the kids were excellent, but something didnt feel right with the quesions...
truth is bitter.

pranksygang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pranksygang said...

im an Indian. And i have to tell that all these things still happen in my place! its an Indian movie based on a book written author!

i was just like you when i watched the movie , as an Indian i din like it but as a girl i like it a bit. it was differently portrayed! A foreign crew taking a typical Indian movie has been a major advantage for its reason to sweep most of the Oscar awards!

i don think you are from other planet because many people in my place just hated the picture and found no reason to like it! As a matter of Fact this happens and its so disgusting!

Autumn Twig said...

Its definitely not a feel good movie but I am familiar with the region and I thought the portrayal of reality was brilliant.

Sometimes, we prefer to turn away from reality or the lesser privileged and maybe because I'm from a country that faces some of these issues, I watched it with a different perspective. People and the government keep playing in the hands of poverty and then there comes too much struggle in making amends...

I thought it was sad and hopeful at the same time... But then its only my opinion

i always want to watch a silly happy movie after a serious one :)
Have you watched "october sky"?

DUTA said...

Haven't watched this particular movie, but I think we should be acquainted with everything happening on this planet, including poverty, exploitment,torture.

No nation is immune from turning into a 'third world nation', so we should be aware of what could await us at the corner.

TallTchr said...

It's a fine movie. Context is key. It takes us to a world we don't know, and depicts it truthfully. At the same time, it slyly uses the conventions of Bollywood storytelling to carve out a role for us as the audience seeking escape through fantasy. Remember the audiences huddled around TV's at the end, watching the quiz show? That's us! The final dance is a joyful way of reminding us that this has been a fairytale, but setting that dance in a subway is an ominous reminder that the brutal context still exists. Jo, maybe you should have seen it in the context of a theatre.

benjibopper said...

that's how i felt about Gladiator. haven't seen slumdog but i suspect i may also be disappointed by it.

Mary Ellen said...

My husband is the one who suggested we see it, I had never heard of it. (This was before the Oscar's). I didn't know what to expect and heard nothing about it beforehand. However, I did love it because I thought it showed us the real world, what it's like to live in the slums of India. Sometimes it's difficult to see the ugly side of humanity and what exists in this world. Oftentimes I think we shelter ourselves from these things and in the long run, they continue because there is no one to fight to end this reality.

Look at how human trafficking in the United States has gone unnoticed by so many people. Finally, I'm seeing more documentaries about this and hopefully it will force the police to take this more seriously. Maybe...someday, our Washington politicians will actually try to do something about it, instead of just giving it lip service.

Regarding the actors, they were all unknowns and this was their first movie. In fact, most of them weren't actual actors and they actually grew up in those slums. They said this was an accurate depiction of the reality of the slums in India.

Pyzahn said...

I went to see the film on New Year's eve because I heard it was uplifting and wanted to start out the year on a happy note. When the movie opened with a torture scene I almost walked out.

I hung in there and did walk away feeling it was an important film. I liked the way the story was told in flashbacks. I thought the tenacity of the young hero was inspiring. I thought it was a great opportunity for spoiled westerners to see how the impoverished live in third world countries.

There were harsh, brutal scenes that I couldn't watch. I believe the dancing at the end was a little manipulative -- getting you to leave in a happy frame of mind. But overall I was thrilled to see it win the Oscar. It seemed so outside the typical Hollywood mega-movies that it deserved to get wider recognition.

K.coxxx <3 said...

its probably just one of those things that was hyped up so much that you were expecting such great things out of. I went into the movie when i saw it in theaters with no expectations and did like it although i found it pretty disturbing

Jo said...

Iamcassandra, I wish I could say I enjoyed it, but, I have to agree that it did not live up to all the hype.

Book pusher, "poverty porn for the first world middle classes." Yes! The brutality was almost pornographic.

Sampoorna, I just simply did not find it to be a good movie - at all. It was disturbing on every level.

Lovelyprism, I would not recommend it to anyone.

Patricia, "But do you see anyone doing anything about it... even after the release of the movie???" Exactly! Mia Farrow is on a hunger strike for the people in Darfur, but who is doing anything about the people who live like this in India!?

SarahAB, "I think it was a slow year for great flicks, and this one got bumped in due to its shock value and its manipulative sensationalist style." You have hit the nail on the head. I would love to read the post on your blog about this movie.

Ivan, yes. Why does everything have to be reduced to the lowest common denominator? If I lived in India, I would be ashamed after seeing this movie.

Marlene, well, the whole world has seen this movie, and it is being touted as a "feel good" movie. I don't think anyone gets it. It is not a "feel good" movie.

Firefly, you might like it, but I definitely did not.

Greenpanda, what did you love about it? I would be interested to know.

Miss Nobody, but it was the actual movie I did not like -- not just the subject matter. I thought it was a horrible movie.

Divyendu, if the things shown in the movie really happen, then the world needs to do something about it, and fast!

White Crow, "Something didn't feel right with the questions." Yes! It was contrived!

Pranksygang, if those things happen, then how on earth does the world turn a blind eye to it, and call the movie a "feel good movie"!?

Autumn Twig, yes I have seen "October Sky", and I enjoyed it. And I did not enjoy "Slumdog Millionaire" at all. I did not think it was a good movie, and it was not just because of the subject contact.

DUTA, you are so true. There are parts of North America that could almost be like Third World countries, so we are not immune either. But I just did not care for "Slumdog Millionaire" -- at all!

TallTchr, perhaps you are over-analyzing it a bit? Sometimes if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck -- it's a duck. I found the movie manipulative and contrived. Push this button, push that button. I don't like movies to tell me how I should feel and react. I am a movie buff, and there were a lot of much better movies this year. Both "The Reader" and "Milk" were better pictures, and Mickey Rourke's performance in "The Wrestler" was much better than Sean Penn's in "Milk". Sean Penn's win was purely political. Proposition 8, anyone?

Benjibopper, "Gladiator" was sort of a "Titanic" type of movie, but "Slumdog Millionaire" was very disturbing!

MaryEllen, we see movies all the time about the harsh conditions people live in, in other parts of the world. That is new new to filmmaking. I actually like movies with a "gritty" edge to them. I just found this movie a piece of cr*p (pardon my fran├žaise...).

Pyzahn, I wish I could agree with you. I love movies, and I love movies that are different. I love movies that are edgy. I don't know why I disliked this movie so much, but it left me with a really bad taste in my mouth.

K.coxxx, perhaps that was it. I was expecting something else. It was not only disturbing, it was manipulative.

Katy said...

I haven't seen it, but what you are discribing reminds me of my thoughts after I read the bestseller "The Kite Runner".

Charles Gramlich said...

I haven't seen it, but personally, I don't really think most movie critics know what they are talking about.

Jo said...

Katy, yes I agree totally about "The Kite Runner"!

Charles, it's really not worth seeing, but I guess people have to judge for themselves.

B said...

I would first like to say if anyone has such a problem with torture that they would walk out of a movie where it was being "portrayed" (ie NOT real, ACTING) then I hope these same people are using their voice through Amnesty International to help injustices that occur DAILY throughout the world. OR are encouraging their lawmakers to take actions regarding the torture that was allowed to happen by the United States at Guantanamo (sp?) Bay.

With that said, yes, what happened was awful. What was so great about the movie was what some of those children were able to overcome and rise above. THAT's why it's a feelgood movie. NOT because OF the torture, DESPITE the torture, beating, etc.

Ugh, and I said months ago I was going to stop arguing about this movie! :)

Jo said...

B, *heh* keep arguing about it. That's good! And yes, if conditions there are really so deplorable, the world must pay attention. Art comes in all forms, doesn't it, and it is not always supposed to make us feel good. It is supposed to disturb us and awaken something. My problem with the movie is that I felt it was sort of a paint-by-number movie. My emotions were being manipulated. Feel bad here -- feel good there -- now feel bad here, etc. I get angry when movies try to do that to me. For all the torture, etc., it did not feel realistic.

TheChicGeek said...

Wow, I've heard such great things about it so I'm surprised. I do think I would be disturbed by punching children in the head too...I'll have to see it and find out.

Have a Happy Day, Jo!

Jo said...

TheChicGeek, it wasn't just the punching children in the head that disturbed me. I felt I was being manipulated. I didn't like the movie as a whole.

Faithful said...

I kind of feel like I need to see this movie????

Jo said...

Faithful, yes, everyone should judge for themselves.

Alissa said...

I've known I was on another planet for some time now. The movies and books everyone else loves I usually hate, with here and there a few exceptions. I've been avoiding Slumdog Millionaire for awhile. I'm not a big fan of violence in movies and when it is based on reality, it's even harder to bear, but more than that I've heard so much gushing about this film, I know that it could never live up to all the hype. Anyway, as movies go I tend to prefer comedies and action/adventure type films and those never win Oscars. So, for me Oscars are far from being the end all be all.

Jo said...

Alissa, if you like movies, watch "The Visitor". It will sneak up on you, and the fellow who played the lead -- Richard Jenkins -- was nominated for a best actor Oscar. He did not win, of course, but he was good. I am like you, if there is too much hype, I end up being disappointed. Violence in movies is not new so "Slumdog" isn't breaking any new ground there. It's just a bad movie.

HAPPY IN NEVADA said...

Terrible movie - I think it was entirely politcal....

Jo said...

Happy, it was a terrible movie, wasn't it!?!? Horrible!

Mariamellie said...

Hi. I'm from Indonesia. I watched the movie recommended by my boyfriend who is a German. From that movie, both of us agree that ones should try best to reach his/her true love. I think that is the basic of the movie.

But for those things you don't like to see from that movie or those that make you ill, it is understandable for me. You see what you don't see in (your) reality. Life is real hard in areas where poverty is in its maximum level. When it comes to extreme faith, people can do extreme actions. Poverty and lack of education make it worse. This movie just like so many other movies whatever the themes are simply present the reality to its extreme form, just like fashion on the catwalk.

We are free to like or dislike that movie. I like some parts and hates other parts of the movie too. But I like the fact that movie dares to present the reality. For me, it opens my mind more that I, a person who lives in a -what people in the (western) politics- call 'third country', I must work harder for good education to improve community development.

Somehow, by watching that movie I am thankful for being here in this so called third world country that many people see that life is harder. It is hard that makes me strong and not being spoiled by the convenience modern life offers. I think some people simply don't like to see 'bad' things because they 'only' want to see 'good' things. And for me, it is not that simply black and white.

Anyway, after all... just like I mention before, it is (only) a movie which presents reality in its extreme form. And for me you are not from other planet, it is simply about the taste and choice in picking up the movie you like to watch. And yes, it is (only) a (predictable) movie.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings through this post! =)

Greetings all the way from East Borneo.

marc aurel said...

Well, first of all, it is a documentary about many aspects of life in India, which we don't normally want to think about here in the comparative comfort of America and Canada. The story is simple was an affirmation tale, much like a previous underdog Oscar winner, Rocky. The photography, on digital film cameras and emulsion film still cameras, is well shot and brilliantly edited. The acting, I agree, is sometimes amateur, (many of the actors were, in fact, street people in Mumbai), but is well enough directed to be affecting. I was affected, shocked, deeply moved and eventually encouraged. Along the way, I was always entertained.

Paula Slade said...

Wow! I've been away for a week and it seems like I missed all the action! I haven't seen the movie but I probably will not now. Frankly I am so weary of violence in films and on television. I've gotten to the stage in my life where I prefer to be uplifted when I invest my time.