A federal holiday means movie day around our house, and yesterday Eyegal and I trekked to the local mega-cinema for a showing of what will most likely be Best Picture, Slumdog Millionaire (forget all the preening and pretentious envelope-drama, this one’s a lock).
This kaleidoscopic, Dickensian pauper-to-prince tale came highly recommended and did not disappoint, but be warned–it’s a rough ride. There’s one scene in particular that made this Eyeguy cringe more than all the others put together, but even amid the torture, squalor and exploitation of the Mumbai ghetto the human spirit rises, irrepressible, and at the end of the bumpy journey, redemption awaits.
By now most of you know the storyline and there are good reviews here and here. So let me leave you with the one impression that burned into my mind like a hot-branding iron as I emerged, squinting, from the darkness of the theater into the glorious light and unseasonable warmth of a February Alabama afternoon:
We are so blasted provincial.
We worry and fret over so-called Big Issues (the size of the stimulus package, “big government,” gay marriage, school prayer, evolution versus ID, whether or not Oprah is the “Most Dangerous Woman in America”) all the while forgetting that we do so simply because we had the dumb luck of being born in a land of plenty. We work ourselves into a wad because we have the time, space and the luxury to expend such mental energy.
Meanwhile, in distant places, a Darwinian drama unfolds as homeless waifs rummage through the trash for their daily bread and predators lie in wait, Cokes in hand, ready to exploit, abuse and even blind.
Mark Twain once said that “Travel is fatal to prejudice.” Turn off the talk radio, walk away from the Web and take the cinematic journey that is Slumdog Millionaire; you may find your provincialism biting the dust as well.
(And be sure to sit through the closing credits for the obligatory Bollywood-style dance scene. Eyegal and I have probably missed our chance to carry on like that, but we sure like watching others kick up their heels).