Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

So often, the movies that get wrapped up in all of the Oscar-hype turn out to be dry, critical darlings that really don't offer a lot of entertainment. The cinematography is beautiful, the acting superb, but by the end, I'm ready to OD on a bottle of painkillers because I'm so darn depressed and/or bored. For example, The English Patient put me to sleep 3 times before I finally just returned it to Blockbuster, unfinished. So I was a little hesitant to go to the theater and spend 20 bucks to go and see Slumdog Millionaire, thinking it would be another film that was critically acclaimed but just not good entertainment.

I was wrong. Big time.

This was a great film. Granted, the premise seems kitsch-y and doomed for failure: a contestant on India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" is arrested for suspected cheating, but the story that emerges and the way the past is woven with present events is nothing short of genius.

I won't spoil the movie here, because I would really encourage you to go out and see it if you haven't. But I will tell you that the movie raises many interesting questions and had me thinking about it for several days afterwards.

The two main characters of the film are brothers, raised in appalling conditions and who lived a poverty-stricken life that is incomprehensible to even the poorest of Americans. Both brothers endure the same heartaches, the same misfortunes, yet one brother ends up optimisic and better for his experiences, the other falling into a pit of violence and despair. They share genes, they share expereinces, so how is it that they end up so different? The movie portrays beautifully how the love for another human being can have such a profound effect on the life of an individual.

And the conditions in which these boys grew up in can only be described as appalling. The poorest Americans, living on the streets, have it 10 times better than these boys did. It was a real eye-opener--not just the fact that such conditions existed, but the fact that whole societies of people lived like this and still managed to live somewhat healthy lives. It makes me realize how silly we are as Americans to be so wrapped up in our anti-bacterial this and our sanitizing-that, to the point that we avoid human contact for fear of "germs."

Slumdog is a great film. It has enough action and humor to keep you entertained from start to finish, but the film also appeals on an intellectual level, really making you think about the life you have, the life you could have had, and how a little hope and a little love can go a long way in making whatever life you have, better.

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