Monday, September 1, 2008

Does Fox Searchlight Have ANOTHER Winner?

Slumdog Millionaire. Yes ladies and gentlemen, keep an eye on this little indie film that was just picked up by Fox Searchlight Pictures as it has been getting rave reviews so far from the Telluride Film Festival. Fox Searchlight has become the studio for independent films lately, especially with recent hits like Little Miss Sunshine, Once, The Savages, Sideways, and Juno. Can Slumdog Millionaire be the next indie film added to that list of Fox Searchlight royality?
Slumdog Millionaire comes from Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Sunshine) and is about a boy from the slums of India, Jamal (British Newcomer Dev Patel), who becomes an instant celebrity after he makes it to the final question on the Hindi version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and wins millions on the show. Jamal is then arrested and tortured for suspicion of cheating because the police do not believe that an illiterate, orphaned boy from the "slums of Mumbai" can know all the answers to the questions on the show.

The film then proceeds to tell his life story, from the time he was a little kid until that very moment, explaining that experiences throughout his life helped him specifically answer every last question - destiny. We discover in the end that he just never gave up in his pursuit to find a girl who he has been in love with all his life, Latika (Freida Pinto).

This film was a pleasing combination of the realism of City of God, the comedy of Darjeeling Limited, and the style of Danny Boyle. There was never a dull moment throughout the entire thing, compliments of Mr. Boyle, whose filmmaking I already love. That style which I speak so highly of involves very colorful cinematography, fast-paced action, songs and a score that add even more energy to many moments in the film, and a storytelling style that differs from almost every other indie filmmaker. If you can appreciate this kind of style, mixed into one of the most uplifting and charming stories all year, despite it's riddled with the occasional torture or riot, you'll end up loving Slumdog Millionaire as much as I did. I've never even really liked Bollywood either, but by the credits at the end, where the entire cast breaks out into a dance number, even I was enthralled by this wonderful finale. Slumdog is another wonderful film from the creative genius of Danny Boyle.

I think Slumdog Millionaire can definitely push its way to mainstream success and it will be greeted with open arms, all because it's such an entertaining, fun, and upbeat movie.

Patel, with his wide-eyed openness and mournful brown eyes, utterly charms as Jamal -- I want to see much more from this young actor in the future -- and all the cast, including the kids who play Jamal, Latika and his brother in their childhood, bring life and energy to their roles. Sweeping cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle brings the slums of Mumbai to life, finding the beauty and humanity amidst crushing impoverishment that most of us those who will see the film could never imagine surviving, much less thriving in.

There's sadness and tragedy within Slumdog Millionaire -- starvation, genocide, child prostitution and overwhelming oppression -- but there's humor, humanity and dignity as well. Boyle, stepping outside the UK to focus his lens on India, seems to have freed himself here to bring his brilliance as a director to its fullest fruition. Slumdog Millionaire is Boyle's best film to date, which is saying quite a lot; He's made a joyous, fun, and wonderfully accessible film that should play well in Toronto before moving on to wider release.

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