Monday, February 2, 2009

Feel-good movie? I hope not.

Sorry about the time it's taken to start posting again. I'm the world's worst blogger and we'll leave it at that.

As Slumdog trudges towards its now all-but-inevitable Oscar win, I get more and more annoyed at the movie. It's not that I didn't appreciate Danny Boyle's hyperkinetic, technicolor spasmatics - they are most impressive. My beef was whether or not this aesthetic is appropriate for such a horrific story. I was hardly the first to find Boyle's movie thematically similar to classic Dickens novels but Slumdog has one crucial difference: Dickens made squalor seem, well, disgusting. Boyle makes it pretty. I came across this David Denby quote today in the New Yorker and I think he hit the nail on the head:
As slum children, Jamal and his friends are enchantingly beautiful, but the supersaturated color makes not just the kids but every surface and texture shine glamorously, including the piles of garbage that Jamal and his brother live among. Boyle has created what looks like a jumpy, hyper-edited commercial for poverty—he uses the squalor and violence touristically, as an aspect of the fabulous.

You should walk out of Slumdog feeling horrified at the depravity and poverty in India's slums. But that would give the movie an actual social conscious and political slant; there is no room for any of that in a fairy tale. Instead, Boyle wants you to dance down the aisles as you exit - Bollywood style! To the celluloid Gods I plead: Please let MILK pull an upset!