Sunday, February 08, 2009

Slumdoggin’ It

I was never fully persuaded by the love story, the most important element of the entire film.

I take that back. That’s too polite. Not only did we never really know if Latika loved Jamal, I’m inclined to believe she was a gold-digging little bitch, never once worthy of Jamal’s lifelong pursuit.

Let’s talk about love, shall we? Consider this. We boys can be kind of dumb when it comes to women. When we fall for a girl, we have the tendency to project our own feelings onto that woman and we too often just assume that (just because we have huge feelings) that she loves us (or will come around to loving us) in return. At some point, you have to stand back, observe the girl’s actions, and ask yourself, “do these actions prove that she has a strong interest in me?” Women don’t lie with their actions. It’s just, too often, men don’t listen. When their actions tell you they don’t give a shit, you politely walk away.

Just because Jamal was obsessed with Latika, just because he chased her throughout his life and never let her go, we just assume she loves him. But what did Latika ever do to show Jamal she actually loved him?

When Jamal and Latika meet again later in life while she’s with that ugly mobster, they hug in the kitchen. Jamal asks her to run away with him. She walks around the kitchen and says incredibly coldly, “What will we live off of?” “Love” is Jamal’s answer. Maybe it’s the harsh way that Freido Pinto, who played Latika, posed the question that ruined that moment for me. If she really loved him, why would she be so cold to him? He’s not dressed like a slum-dweller. It’s not like he was begging on the streets. He was working at the time. So that wasn’t enough money for her? Is it me or did that come across as totally selfish on her part? It's not that she didn't ask a valid question because she did. What she failed to do was show love toward Jamal when she spoke to him. I don't recall much evidence in the acting or story that Latika felt anything for Jamal or at least enough to persuade me that she was worth all this trouble Jamal has gone through.

But, wait, MM. Latika showed up at the train station, didn’t she? Yes. Now let me ask you a question: did she really want to be with him or did she merely want to escape another bad situation she was in? How do we know that she had any interest at all in HIM?

But, of course, when he’s on TV and he’s about to win millions of rupees, she’s running through the streets like a mad woman.

It's funny. In classic literature, there is always one true love that spans a lifetime. In fact, Slumdog Millionaire reminded me of Pip and Estella in Great Expectations. (Pip could’ve done better, too.) Dickens rewrote his ending and I was always relieved they were “friends apart.” Get over her, will you, Pip? You could do better!

Another aspect of this love affair is Jamal’s lifetime obsession over Latika. On the one hand, that’s romantic. (And good for her because he rescued her more than once.) On the other hand, obsessing about a girl for most of one’s life is a bit unhealthy, don’t you think? Today, that’s what we call a STALKER, is it not? And poor Jamal had obsessed about Latika for so long that he lost all sense of objectivity about whether she loved him in return. Jamal’s time with her as an adult was so infrequent that his love was never rooted in a reality of who she really was. Latika became in his mind this great idea of love that put her up on a pedestal so high in the heavens with expectations impossible to fulfill. If you ask me, the idea of Jamal and Latika living happily ever after with mountains of money is a recipe for disaster. I give them about two weeks before they break-up.

In the end, Jamal said, “It is destined,” which range false to me. I would’ve preferred something more personal from the hearts of the characters. That something is “destined” and things happen as foretold to characters is a self-defeating narrative gimmick. What do the characters want? Does Latika really want this? Instead of Jamal saying, “It is destined,” I would’ve preferred a nice personal sentiment of affection from the dead, shallow, gold-digging heart of Latika.



Emily Blake said...

Latika also sacrificed herself for Jamal. She lost her virginity to his brother to prevent them from resorting to violence, and I'm pretty certain she didn't want to do that.

And as for wanting something to live on, well, that doesn't make you a gold digger. The girl knows what it's like to be dirt poor and she knows she doesn't want to go back to that. Jamal can't protect her physically, and he can't provide enough money to keep her safe through power. I'm sorry, but if a man ain't got money and he ain't got strength, love may sound like a terrific thing to live on but it doesn't keep you off the streets or out of the hands of those who would use you.

I think she's cold to him because she knows he lives in a fairy tale and if she allows herself to believe in it, she'll just end up more miserable. Look what happened when she showed up at the train station to follow his dream - she ended up worse for it.

She's practical and he's a dreamer, and they both needed to give a little to end up in the middle.

Mystery Man said...

Bwaah ha ha ha! Very true. Great comments, particularly those about him living in a fairy tale, which is in a fairy tale story and his winning millions of rupees only feeds Jamal's pie-in-the-sky dreaming, doesn't it?

There was something that rubbed the wrong way about that film.


terraling said...

Very funny, you are right that it is a completely one-sided romance, but as you also point out, there is a lot of truth in that. I know I've certainly been in his shoes, though my obsessions usually don't last more than a couple of years or so ;-)

She's not the protag but, yes, she's fairly unsympathetic. But the film is all about his journey, getting what he wants, even if he doesn't quite appreciate what it is he's won.

If the film has a problem I'd say that the structure - while very clever - means that you know how the film ends right from the outset, robbing it of suspense. You need 'destiny' to justify the structure.

See it just won best adapted screenplay at the BAFTAs, and - hooray! - In Bruges won best original screenplay.

Luzid said...

Did you not realize that when Latika asks Jamal what they will live off of, it's because it's rather obvious Jamal would not have his job anymore because they would have to flee the mobster and go into hiding?

I think, based on your missing that point, that you're being really unfair to Latika.

Anonymous said...

The love story wasn't what interested me about Slumdog Millionaire.

What I enjoyed was Jamal's refusal to become bitter and corrupt, like his brother, despite all he had endured. And the fact that he was about to win enough money to truly escape the slums- with or without Latika.

It's also worth noting that (I think) the book focused solely on the two brothers. It was during the screen adaptation that the love story was added, which may be why it isn't as "heartfelt" as the rest of the movie.


Ugly Deaf Muslim Punk Gurl! said...

Emily nailed that right on the head.

as for me, I enjoyed Slumdog mainly because I was rooting for those poor slum-dwellers who were determined to get out of the slums and make something out of their lives. It's a feel-good movie and makes you feel hopeful that anything is possible.

uhhh, yeah that's it, i guess...

Anonymous said...

I've been wanting to see this movie. I'm very interested in it... Plus she's hot!

Mystery Man said...

Terra - I liked "In Bruges," but never felt it deserved awards.

Luzid - True and a valid concern, but if she really LOVED HIM, would she have been so harsh to him?

Edie - Good point about Jamal not getting corrupt.

Deaf - I can't help but wonder if the film sends a wrong message to slumdwellers, that the only way out is a coincidental once-in-a-lifetime shot in a game show?

Anon - I'd say that's a criticism. The casting wasn't terribly inspiring to me, either. The good people were pretty, bad people ugly, and slimy people were, well, slimy. Imagine how much more interesting the scenes with Latika living with the repulsive gangster would've been if he was GOOD LOOKING?


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the film, but had some of the same problems with Latika's character. It jumped out at me that she didn't necessarily love him back. However, when she acts coldly to him and aks what they'll live on, I felt that it was possible she was protecting him by turning him away, much in the same way that Spiderman tries to protect MJ because he knows he dangerous to be around. That aside, even if she started out as a cycnic, I think his endless pursuit eventually won her over. Lastly, the "It is destined" line really rang true for me because that's what the core story is about. He was asked questions that he knew the answer to because of their destiny. Had he been asked other questions, it would not have led to their reunion.


Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention that the loss of her virginity as a sacrifice did NOT ring true for me. No guy wants to hear the words, "I did you a huge favor by banging your brother." :)


Luzid said...

! MM,

I think so, because she was scared of what would happen to him if the mobster found out about them, and she didn't want him to suffer (or die).

That was my feeling on watching it, anyway. YMMV!

Mystery Man said...

Ross - The point about her being cold to him to protect him is a good one, but, ya know, this lifelong pursuit of her, which eventually wins her over makes me a little nervous. That kind of thinking is just ammo for today's stalkers, isn't it? Hehehe... I'm okay with destiny as it relates to him being in the game, but does it ring true as well when it comes to his relationship to Latika? What's more meaningful? That two characters come together because they BOTH want to or the they come together just because it's destined? I loved Emily's comments about how weak Jamal was, too. In most situations, Jamal's brother did most of the dirty work necessary to save Latika, which certainly factored in to her reluctance to be with him, and I just can't help but wonder if that was a weakness to the story. Would the story have been better if he figured out how to be tougher? Should it not be about his arc in the way that he figured out how to overcome his situation than this once-in-a-lifetime-pie-in-the-sky escape?

Luzid - That's a great point. I certainly wouldn't argue with that. Those are good feelings, and I respect them.


Tim Clague said...

Indeed to me Dev Patel (although a good actor) is perhaps too Western. He carries himself like a Westerner. He does seem a 'slumdog'

On the romance side - I thought the same as you MM. But then over analysis of any romance, either real or fictional, is best avoided.

TypicalFashion said...

this movie started off good, but i think the last half turned into a bad hollywood movie that was really underwhelming.

DH said...

I'd agree with the above - the first half being a good setup - but I think ultimately the movie had a terrible moral.

Danny Boyle admitted that he put the winning of the money in to please the American audience. If Jamal had lost and she Latika had fallen for him it would have made more sense as a story about true love, but the storyteller wanted it all and garbled the message.

Fairy Tales have strong morals and challenges to overcome. All Jamal did was run from obstacles and nothing he did in the film had any real consequence. All the answers could have been written on the blackboard behind the police officer 'Keiser Sose' style (which was of course where the scriptwriter got the framing device) and it would have made as much sense. We learn nothing from Jamal's life that we can apply to our own - which is what happens in a true fairy tale.
The tension in the film was mainly provided by the format of the game show, which shows you how well the game show works but the script was simple with little memorable dialogue and stock characters.

What I saw was a film about a selfish idiot who keeps his head in the clouds, constantly runs from confrontation, and is forced to win a million bucks just to lure a woman away from a rich gangster - who by the way, she might still be with had he not disfigured her.
Jamal also works at a call centre annoying people all day and we are supposed to sympathise with him?

The direction and pace of the film were incredible though, this is why the film works. Danny Boyle should be admired for that.

Mystery Man said...

Re: "If Jamal had lost and she Latika had fallen for him it would have made more sense as a story about true love, but the storyteller wanted it all and garbled the message."

I completely agree.


Anonymous said...

ok it's obvious Latika asked him "what would we live off" just as an excuse to save him... she didn't really mean it she was just trying to not hurt him.

man u're a moron. sorry. but THINK