Slumdog Millionaire or The Reader? Which is the better movie?
The hard facts are that Slumdog Millionaire has definitely received the most media attention, inspiring a slew of superb pooch puns across the tabloids after bagging 8 Oscars, 7 Baftas and 4 Golden Globe awards.
Based on awards and media coverage alone, it appears that Slumdog Millionaire is a better film than The Reader.
However, I watched both of these movies for the first time just last month and was extremely surprised.
The Reader blew me away. Kate Winslet plays Hannah, a tram conductor in post-war Berlin who has an affair with 15-year-old schoolboy Michael (David Kross). He reads to her from classics of world literature before they make love. But following a blissful summer, she suddenly disappears, leaving him heartbroken. Eight years later, while attending a war crimes trial as a law student, Michael encounters Hannah again and learns the shocking reason for her departure.
I came away from this film caring deeply about the characters. The film made me cry, it lingered in my mind, and made me question and ponder.
By contrast, I found the tale of an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai little more than mildly entertaining. I’m sure you know the story – Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is just one question away from winning 20 million rupees on Indian TV’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. How is it possible he knows the answers? Arrested on suspicion of cheating, he reveals the incredible story of his life on the streets, and of the girl he loved and lost.
Watching Slumdog Millionaire was like eating junk food – easy, instantly satisfying but ultimately of no nutritional value whatsoever. It left me feeling empty actually considering the high expectations I had.
Yes, it’s visually exciting, with some amazing photography. The child actors are good, and the clever gameshow plot device certainly entertains, but it crams so much in that there’s little character development whatsoever and I was left barely caring about any of them. I didn’t cry. I didn’t even feel, and I certainly wasn’t made to think.
I’m not saying that Slumdog Millionaire is a bad film. It’s a very enjoyable film, but deserving of 8 Oscars, 7 Baftas and 4 Golden Globes while The Reader won only one of each? I think not.
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This imbalance concerns me immensely because the celebrated Slumdog with its weak performances (with the exception of the child actors), delivers the message that you don’t have to be educated to get anywhere in the world. Just go on TV and with a bit of luck you’ll make your fortune.
By contrast, The Reader, with its deep, rounded, characters, and brilliant performances, delivers a powerfully thought-provoking message that stresses the dangers of not gaining an education. Yet, it wasn’t considered deserving of Slumdog’s pile of accolades. Worrying.