Newcomer Dev Patel, left, as a boy from the slums of Mumbai who makes it to the Indian edition of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," with veteran Bollywood star Anil Kapoor as the host of the show. Press contact: Gitesh Pandya, gpandya[at]boxofficeguru.com; official site: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/slumdogmillionaire/
Have you seen the film? Post your comments - including the atmosphere at the theaters - below.
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It has to be the best-reviewed "small" movie in years - and the best-reviewed English movie with an Indian theme since "Gandhi" in 1982. I have had more friends - of all backgrounds - rave about it than any movie in years. Sure, most of them are telling me about it because of the India connection, but the buzz around it is much louder than the troika of recent Indian-English movies that caught mainstream attention: "Bend It Like Beckham," "Monsoon Wedding" and "The Namesake."
I am talking, of course, about "Slumdog Millionaire," the movie set in Mumbai and made by brand-name British director Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting," "28 Days," "Shallow Grave") and based on the novel "Q&A" by Vikas Swarup (an Indian diplomat, this was his 2005 debut novel).
[UPDATE: Box office receipts for the first five days show the film grossed $418,000 in 10 theaters in six cities (including a $35,000 average for the first weekend, the highest average of any movie in the same time period). See the movie's screening calendar below.]
Back in September, we first wrote about "Slumdog," quoting SAJAer and entertainment writer Aseem Chhabra:
===> Read Chhabra's SAJAforum Q&A with Boyle
We also quoted the Wall Street Journal's Pulitzer-winning film critic Joe Morgenstern, who said he would be reviewing the film later, but wanted to "confine myself to only a few effusions for now."
If that's counts as a few September effusions, what did Morgenstern have to say when the movie opened on Friday? Here is his more formal review:
"Is this heaven?" Jamal asks after tumbling from a train and looking up to see the Taj Mahal. I had the same feeling after watching the first few astonishing scenes: Was this movie heaven? The answer turned out to be yes.
Yes because of what "Slumdog" does -- gives the movie medium a jolt of cyclonic power -- and yes because of what it is, a timeless story of unswerving love that's been married to a madly extravagant Hindi version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" Simon Beaufoy's screenplay was inspired by "Q & A", a modest though ingenious first novel by an Indian diplomat named Vikas Swarup, and inspiration is the right word. Nothing else could explain the daring and sweep of Mr. Beaufoy's writing, which takes off from the book's premise, leaps from genre to genre with a parkour athlete's agility, and evokes the rags, riches, horror, hope and irrepressible energy of Third World life with a zest that honors "Oliver Twist." (A lovely coda heaps icing on the layered cake.)
RottenTomatoes.com, which aggregates reviews, gives it a freshness rating of 90 percent via 73 reviews and says: "Consensus: Visually dazzling and thematically conscious, Slumdog Millionaire is a story both entertaining and powerful." Compare that 90 percent with other movies playing now, including 66 percent for the James Bond movie, a "Quantum of Solace" and 57 percent for perennial critical favorite Clint Eastwood's latest film, "Changeling."
Here are some more reviews...
Roger Ebert in Chicago Sun-Times:
This is a breathless, exciting story, heartbreaking and exhilarating at the same time, about a Mumbai orphan who rises from rags to riches on the strength of his lively intelligence. The film's universal appeal will present the real India to millions of moviegoers for the first time.
The real India, supercharged with a plot as reliable and eternal as the hills. The film's surface is so dazzling that you hardly realize how traditional it is underneath. But it's the buried structure that pulls us through the story like a big engine on a short train.
By the real India, I don't mean an unblinking documentary like Louis Malle's "Calcutta" or the recent "Born Into Brothels." I mean the real India of social levels that seem to be separated by centuries. What do people think of when they think of India? On the one hand, Mother Teresa, "Salaam Bombay!" and the wretched of the earth. On the other, the "Masterpiece Theater"-style images of "A Passage to India," "Gandhi" and "The Jewel in the Crown."
The India of Mother Teresa still exists. Because it is side-by-side with the new India, it is easily seen. People living in the streets. A woman crawling from a cardboard box. Men bathing at a fire hydrant. Men relieving themselves by the roadside. You stand on one side of the Hooghly River, a branch of the Ganges that runs through Kolkuta, and your friend tells you, "On the other bank millions of people live without a single sewer line."
On the other hand, the world's largest middle class, mostly lower-middle, but all the more admirable. The India of "Monsoon Wedding." Millionaires. Mercedes-Benzes and Audis. Traffic like Demo Derby. Luxury condos. Exploding education. A booming computer segment. A fountain of medical professionals. Some of the most exciting modern English literature. A Bollywood to rival Hollywood.
As he approaches 20, Jamal (Dev Patel) rediscovers his childhood friend Latika (Freida Pinto), but they are star-crossed.
"Slumdog Millionaire" bridges these two Indias by cutting between a world of poverty and the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire."
Lou Lumenick in the New York Post:
FOUR stars simply aren't enough for Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire," which just may be the most entertaining movie I've ever labeled a masterpiece in these pages.
Great movies transport the audience, and this one left me floating on air after two viewings. I can't wait to see it again - and share it with others.
It's actually one of those movies that are best approached with as little advance knowledge as possible.
Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times:
That would be the hard-to-resist "Slumdog Millionaire," with director Danny Boyle adding independent film touches to a story of star-crossed romance that the original Warner brothers would have embraced, shamelessly pulling out stops that you wouldn't think anyone would have the nerve to attempt anymore.
Manohla Dargis in The New York Times:
A gaudy, gorgeous rush of color, sound and motion, “Slumdog Millionaire,” the latest from the British shape-shifter Danny Boyle, doesn’t travel through the lower depths, it giddily bounces from one horror to the next. A modern fairy tale about a pauper angling to become a prince, this sensory blowout largely takes place amid the squalor of Mumbai, India, where lost children and dogs sift through trash so fetid you swear you can smell the discarded mango as well as its peel, or could if the film weren’t already hurtling through another picturesque gutter.
Boyle borrows heavily from Bollywood, and every dazzling frame seems ready to overflow - with people, emotions and a riot of color. The romance is shamelessly soap-operatic, and the mood swings wildly from despair to joy. But when Boyle pulls back to show us his grand vision, it's a stunner. And everything suddenly falls into place, as if this uncommonly daring film was fated to work from the very start.
Claudia Pulg in USA Today:
With dazzling, magical realism and vigorous storytelling, the film has an enchanting power, fusing a fairy tale quality with gritty realism. Yet even with interwoven surrealistic images, the story portrays cultural accuracy. In a highly charged, intensely Technicolor world, there is poverty and privation but also laughter and hope, accentuated by the tribute to Bollywood musicals during the final credits.
The film is playing in a limited number of cities now and will open wider on Nov. 21:
- NY: Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston St. (@ Mercer St.)
- NY: Lincoln Plaza, 1886 Broadway
- LA: The Landmark, 10850 West Pico Blvd. (Q&A with director after Fri 11/14 7:30pm show)
- LA: Arclight Hollywood, 6360 Sunset Blvd. (Q&A with director after Sat 11/15 7:30pm show)
- SF: Embarcadero One, Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level
- SF: Sundance Kabuki, 1881 Post St.
- DC: Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema, 7235 Woodmont Ave.
- CHICAGO: Cine Arts Evanston, 1715 Maple Ave
- CHICAGO: Landmark Century Centre Cinema 7, 2828 N Clark St.
- TORONTO: Cineplex Varsity Theatre, 55 Bloor Street West
Find showtimes in your area: http://www.fandango.com/slumdogmillionaire_115687/movietimes
Watch the movie trailer and note that instead of the usual single studio logo, the film has four, an indication of its mixed initial reception in Hollywood (otherwise, a big studio would have grabbed it and delivered, rather than being lost in Warner Bros. as this one was):
Clip from the movie - "Are you nervous?":
Clip from the movie - "I will never forgive you":
Video of Boyle discussing filming in India:
Post your comments below.