Friday, May 08, 2009

They Were What I Thought They Were

Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, 2008) [3]/ The Reader (Stephen Daldrey, 2008) [4]

It's been a while since I've posted anything any reviews, mostly on the account of my trip to Las Vegas. My feelings on both of these are about the same: I had an inkling before viewing them that I wasn't going to care for them much and I was pretty much correct.

I don't get all the hype surrounding Slumdog Millionaire. I don't care for Boyle's directing style, so strike one. As for the story, it is a series of contrivances that are in complete service to the game show element of the plot. Jamal's backstory is there for no other reason to be able to use the story of a slum kid overcoming his past for success. The film has no real insight or critique of poverty in India. The film is shot and seen through a postcard, touristy prism of India. For me, there seems to be a disconnect from the portrayal of Jamal's impoverished upbringing and the fairy-tale nature of the story. The film has the disguise of a social drama but it never really wants to dwell on the bad stuff. And that the film falls back into its pre-destined, feel good ending, bread and butter for a mainstream American audience, completely turns me off.

The Reader isn't that much better as it takes its important issues and smooths the edges out for the audience. The problem here is that the film is about a lot of issues: the Holocaust, sexuality, German guilt, power are mentioned but never really examined that deeply. There is the issue of believability, not in the story, but in the characters, who never create any empathy with the audience. They're fairly wooden performances actually, even for stoic German characters. Daldry keeps the chronology moving on a consistent basis but in doing so, he ends up sweeping moments away that could have benefited from closer examination. The film would have worked much better as a deeper examination of German guilt. The film tries to be too many films for too many people to have an effective impact. That, and it really ended up being a boring film.

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