AMC: Slumdog Millionaire (Boyle, 2008)

After I saw Sunshine, I convinced myself that Danny Boyle would one day make something truly great. Sunshine was brilliant for the first two acts (as good as a film can be that has a crew of astronauts flying into a sun to reignite it) before it became terrible, and his 28 Days Later and Trainspotting were more consistently good without ever being great. With Slumdog Millionaire, be goes completely in the opposite direction, embracing a sort of audience-friendly Oscar sure-thing that immediately falls in the same category as Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, and possibly even Haggis’ Crash. Half feel-good indie film and half pseudo culturally significant, ‘pat myself on the back because I was able to make it through, and even enjoy (!), a film that is mostly subtitled” schmaltz field. The subtitles even jump around the frame, locating themselves next to the speaker in crazy colors like blue, green, and orange.

The premise is okay. A teenager named Jamal is on the India version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” and he isn’t actually intelligent enough to know the sort of questions that are commonly on the show. But, all of the questions are remarkably familiar to him. The film is structured in a way that you see the question asked on the show, and then the film has a flashback to an early part of Jamal’s traumatic childhood to reveal the event that shows us why he knows the answer to the question. Not a bad set up. Except that every flashback makes Jamal’s life seem more and more miserable. Oh, you thought it was bad that he had to escape from a latrine by jumping in a pool of shit? Just wait until you see the fucked up sway his mother dies! Oh, you think that’s terrible? How about how his childhood dream girl is sold into prostitution! Man, Jamal got a raw deal.

But it’s ok. He gets the girl, and the money, as you can predict 5 minutes in. This is the favorite for the Best Picture Oscar. Okay, then.