Two fairy-tale love stories are wooing theatergoers this season. If you have but $12.50 (as ludicrous New York City rates go) to spend, skip Twilight, the teen vampire tale, and see Slumdog Millionaire instead.
The Golden Globe Best Picture nominee is about two destitute Indian orphans from Mumbai whose fates take them on two different, equally harrowing paths before reuniting, in part, thanks to the television game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
The story of star-crossed lovers set apart is not new. Jamal and Latika could be Romeo and Juliet, with their houses divided divided by violence, discrimination and poverty rather than a long-running family feud. But, Slumdog Millionaire, in true Bollywood and director Danny Boyle fashion (he directed 2004's serendipitious Millions), weaves the age-old idea of destiny and soul mates into the modern, and perhaps all-too-relevant, Mumbai of the late 20th century and today. What Jamal, his brother Salim, and Latika endure—losing parents to a massacre in the city's Muslim slums, violent exploitation at every turn, living in a world where a million dollars changes everything—might seem as far-fetched to Western audiences as Cinderella's life of servitude and Prince Charmings. This is precisely what makes the fairy-tale love story work in the film. How could the lovers survive all that they do without a dose of fate on their side?
Twilight's love story didn't explode on the big screen as it did in the book series. Whether the hype or the hokey effects ruined it, the fairy tale felt stale. And it wasn't about the lack of sex between the main characters because Slumdog is sans sex, too. In fact, the chemistry between Twilight's main characters Bella and Edward has been praised whereas Jamal, British actor Dev Patel, and Latika, the stunning Freida Pinto, don't carry the onscreen heat of, say, Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. At the end of the day, we buy their devotion nonetheless.
Ultimately, the box office hit Twilight, fails to achieve what the book series it was based on and Slumdog Millionaire do: adding an original spin on an old love story and making even jaded, non-teenage hearts swoon.
Photo: Fox Searchlight