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Quibbles.

February 8, 2009, 8:16 am

Having recently paid less attention to the situation in Afghanistan than to most other things, I didn’t realize that Karzai was no longer in our favor. (Sorry, “our”.) Also, I find the Times style of printing Vice President Biden’s FULL name irritating. Though I suppose I should count my blessings: at least they don’t spell out Robinette. And finally, the penultimate paragraph of this review reads:

The central plot mechanism of “Slumdog Millionaire”—Jamal (Dev Patel), a poor kid from Mumbai, overcomes his ragamuffin past and achieves fame, wealth, and selfhood by answering questions on a high-stakes game show—feels both cheesy and rigid. The movie is a Dickensian fable, but didn’t David Copperfield have to work his way up the ladder? As Jamal thinks over the questions put to him on the show, moments from his early life float through his mind, and some wrenching event delivers the right answer to him. Apart from a nagging implausibility—how could every question link up with an old memory?—I object to the way that the director, Danny Boyle, orchestrates Jamal’s life. Everything is seen in a flash—the boy’s mother is beaten to death, a man is set on fire, tiny goddesses appear out of nowhere—and nothing is prepared, explained, or understood. As slum children, Jamal and his friends are enchantingly beautiful, but the supersaturated color makes not just the kids but every surface and texture shine glamorously, including the piles of garbage that Jamal and his brother live among. Boyle has created what looks like a jumpy, hyper-edited commercial for poverty—he uses the squalor and violence touristically, as an aspect of the fabulous.

I agree in part with the above sentiments. But if you made it to the last sentence of that paragraph, don’t you think Denby should have inverted the final clauses? “Boyle uses the squalor and violence touristically, as an aspect of the fabulous — he has created what looks like a jumpy, hyper-edited commercial for poverty.” It seems like such an obvious improvement that I’m not sure why the change wasn’t made. Probably I spend more time thinking about things like this, and less concentrating on important issues — like, say, Afghanistan — than I should.

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