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Wednesday, February 18, 2009:
"Slumdog Millionaire" - 2008: mini movie review

The story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika, the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show's questions. Intrigued by Jamal's story, the jaded Police Inspector begins to wonder what a young man with no apparent desire for riches is really doing on this game show? When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the Inspector and sixty million viewers are about to find out...

It actually amazes me when someone says they've never heard of this movie, as like what happened today when one of my co-workers - a 24-yr old guy with an addiction to Chipotle, Pepsi, "Family Guy" and Britney Spears - admitted to when I told him I'd seen it over the weekend. He gave me a blank look and had to ask me what it was about. Kids (rolling eyes).

Of course any movie that has been generating Oscar buzz tends to make me wary most of the time, but in this instance, "Slumdog Millionaire" proves to be one of those shining exceptions that makes me ever so glad I took a chance on it.

The movie is essentially the story of Jamal, an 18-year-old young man who's accused of cheating after he wins a whole heck of a lot of cash on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire". When he's arrested, he explains his innocence by sharing details of his life growing up poor in Mumbai, and how it lead him to appear as a contestant on the extremely popular game show.

Alternately immensely beautiful and starkly horrific, "Slumdog Millionaire" follows Jamal and his older brother Salim as well as Latika, an orphan girl Jamal befriends when their village is violently attacked. These children, no more than five or six, must now learn to survive on their own, and while they are both sneaky and clever, hunger and exhaustion wear down their defenses and they end up in an orphanage. At first things seem to be wonderful, but as time goes on, it becomes apparent that those running the orphanage have bigger plans for the children in their care.

Over the next several years, Jamal loses touch with Latika but then finds her again. He's never forgotten the quiet girl with the pretty smile, and she is the guiding force that keeps him going even in the bleakest of times. His older brother does not understand his single-minded devotion to her, seeing her more of an inconvenience, one that Jamal should just forget. But he cannot, and soon they are together again. Fate is cruel however, and once more Jamal is torn from her side. Yet never does he forget her, and it is his determination to be reunited that leads him to the chance of lifetime on a t.v. show made popular throughout the world (or at least in the U.S. and India).

My thoughts:

What a stunning and moving film. The extreme poverty level is heart-wrenching, especially to realize just how many people in India are living in slums. Millions. As in 65 million. A rather sobering thought. Even the children who portrayed the young Jamal and Latika in the movie were taken from the slums and now must try to adjust to going back to their world.
But this is not a social commentary, merely an observation of a more serious nature, brought on by the viewing of this incredibly uplifting film about love and survival. Sometimes it was hard to forget that the main character, Jamal, is only 18 by the end of the film. He's lived so much in so few years, experienced things most people will never know, not all of it good. But Jamal was one of those people that had an open heart and a willingness to believe. Despite the way he grew up, he was able to find beauty in it.
I expected to cry, but I hadn't really expected to laugh much during this movie, yet I did. The kids were typical kids, and there was one scene (and those who saw it know which one I mean) that made me giggle in disgust. It was nasty, but you couldn't help but laugh. I couldn't anyway.
And Jamal as an adult was funny while on the game show. He's this quiet kid, like a deer in the headlights, but he has an engaging personality. I found him very likeable, and wanted him to get the girl in the end. After all, I love a good romance.
Jamal and Latika were wonderful from the very beginning, when he wanted her to be the third Musketeer along with him and his brother Salim. I think it was a sweet love story, to recognize your destiny from such a young age and do everything in your power to make it happen. But this wasn't a complete fairytale; there are harsh realities that Jamal learns and witnesses first-hand, things he is powerless to prevent. But he never gives up, and that is the heart of the story.
There's the flavor of India strewn throughout, from the colorful clothing to the distinctive music and accents. It is such a fascinating culture, one I never really thought a lot about before but now I wish I knew more. I loved the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and it made me curious about the history of the country.
I definitely recommend this movie, and hope it does well at the Oscars. I usually am not a fan of any of the contenders, but I can't say that in this case. It is a film I'm still thinking about days later. It kinda snuck up on me that way. I'll most likely buy it when it comes out.
Have you seen this movie?
What did you think?
Any movies out there you'd recommend?



  1. This is far and away my favorite movie of the year. I let out a little girly squeak/sob at the end: "It is written."

    It's movie perfect, the stark horror of the slums, juxtaposed with the fact, slick new Mumbai and the purity of the love between Latika and Jamal. I just delighted in every single moment of the movie.

    It's one I'll buy the moment it's out on DVD. Just a superb movie on every level.

    I've seen a ton of other Oscar movies this year, but my faves were this one and Milk, which is an extraordinary story.

  2. I loved this movie! It's a harsh reminder that a vast majority of the world lives in poverty. Makes us, or should, appreciate all that we have! I know it made me thankful!!!

    I'm with Kati, MILK was another of my favorites from this year.

  3. I haven’t seen this one yet but I have heard about it.

    I have to laugh at the Kids comment about your co-worker. Since I’m *cough* 24 too it made me laugh. I just don’t see myself as a kid anymore ;op

  4. I haven't seen this yet, but it's on my dying to see list. Great review, Stacy!

  5. Ditto to everything Mollie said. This movie was such an eye opener for me because it really made me sit up and wonder about these children that are raising themselves and doing whatever they need to do just to survive.

    Jamal's character and his intensely passionate love he had for Latika made this movie so much more powerful for me.

    It was a wonderful movie, a movie that everyone needs to see. Wonderful, wonderful movie.

  6. I haven't seen "Slumdog Millionaire" yet, but I have it on my list of movies to see.

  7. Kati, I know exactly what you mean. I did something similar when I saw that too. Such a wonderful little film.

    Mollie, that is so true. We are very fortunate, and this movie really hits home on that issue. Now I must see MILK.

    LOL LeeAnn. Yeah, Eric had no clue about this movie. I'm like, where've you been??? He's a good guy, just clueless sometimes *g* Since I'm 37, I can call him a kid.

    Thanx Lori. I'm sooo glad I went to see it.

    Wena, it was romantic, wasn't it? And the poverty is something that was really hard to see. Many of those kids who were in the movie have to go home to that. It's their reality. Very heartbreaking.

    Liza, definitely, go see it. It's charming and uplifting, even though there are some parts that are a bit hard to watch. It's worth it.

  8. I've heard nothing but great things about this movie from my friends who've seen it. I'll have to try and get a sitter and go see it.

  9. I didn't like it. Thought it was boring.

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