Why "Slumdog" Sucks -- (It's True, Someone Didn't Like It...)
By all accounts, "Slumdog Millionaire" is one of the best movies of the year—or ever. It’s the “feel-good fairytale” that the world’s critics can’t stop rhapsodizing about. And every time I visit Facebook, another acquaintance, coworker, or cousin has posted some new paean to the film’s life-changing effects.
It’s “Slumdog Millionaire.” And I didn’t like it. While the world is toasting “Slumdog” as a “celebration of life, love, and hope,” I can only smile weakly and mumble in half-hearted agreement—because disliking “Slumdog” apparently makes me a horrible, incorrigibly cynical curmudgeon. And I’m not. I swear I’m not.
To be fair, I didn’t hate the film. Visually, it was thrilling. The actors were appealing. And no one can deny that Danny Boyle is an exceptionally skilled director (if anything, he’s too slick).
But I distrust the film’s motives and messages—and, packaged as well as they are by Boyle (et al.), I worry that they obscure some important but hard-to-face truths, not only about the reality of life in third-world slums but also about the nature of romantic love, the power of hope, and “fate.”
False notions about how romantic love works—ideas of destiny and “love at first sight”—are fed to us in a constant stream of movies and TV shows. And I think that many of us are overdosing on them, to the point where we’re crippled in our real-world relationships. When real life doesn’t measure up to the epic love stories we see in movies like “Slumdog,” we label our relationships as failures and seek out new, more “epic” romances. (As recently reported in “Time” magazine, a study conducted at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh found that problems typically reported by couples in relationship counseling often reflect misconceptions about love and romance—misconceptions that are due to the influence of Hollywood films.)
Fairy tales are great—but let’s be clear: plucky courage isn’t enough to propel an orphan out of an Indian slum, and true love really doesn’t conquer all.
I thought that the “these two people are destined to be together” storyline in “Slumdog” was repellently (and cheaply) manipulative. It’s all too easy for a filmmaker to put a lump in our throats by showing us this old Cinderella story in a beautiful package like “Slumdog Millionaire”—and I really hope that viewers aren’t measuring their own love stories by this impossible standard.
I know, I know. Movies are often about escapism. And this sort of thing is nothing new—a friend recently pointed out “Slumdog” could’ve been written by a modern-day Dickens. Well, for that matter, I don’t much care for Dickens’s simplistic morality, either.
Maybe I <em>am</em> an incorrigibly cynical curmudgeon, after all.
(Images courtesy of Fox Searchlight)