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Saturday, 4 April 2009

She didn't do it.

Usually I leave film criticism to Philip French and others that have made a profession out of it – even though filmmaking is a large part of what I do – but I am, occasionally, forced to comment. And this is one of those occasions.

A big fan of Danny Boyle – and in particular his early trilogy of Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and A Life Less Ordinary – I enjoyed his recent Slumdog Millionaire, as clearly much of the world did, sweeping the boards at the Academy Awards and the BAFTAs as it did, but felt the film was marred by a couple of gaping flaws.

Firstly, unless one is Luhrmann, Gilliam or a melodramatic Bollywood director, one has to choose between fantasy or social realism – or risk fusing them awkwardly. (And just because your film is shot in Bombay doesn't make you a Bollywood director.) The naivety and level of education attributed to the protagonist in Slumdog so far exceeds that of a boy with Jamal's slum background his meteoric rise seems just too implausible – no matter how many didactic, life-revealing experiences he has had.

My real contention though with Slumdog is with its title. To give away the outcome of a film in the film name is to have the dénouement unravelled before you've even bought your cinema ticket. And this is exacerbated further by the fact that the film is being toted as 'the feelgood movie of the decade' on posters the world over. If the title didn't give it away, at no point during the movie is anyone unsure as to the conclusion – especially as the film is feelbad until five minutes from the end. In short, calling the film Slumdog Millionaire is tantamount to calling Othello She Didn't Do It.

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