Last night I saw Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and was blown away. It’s beautiful and romantic, sad and tragic, stunning and moving. It’s a Dickensian classic that does the greatest thing cinema can do: it transports you into the life of someone else and lets you see and experience part of the world you would otherwise never know. And beyond all of that it’s also compelling entertainment.
It’s also a movie that I would recommend for teens. It’s tough in spots, so is life for the children of India’s slums. Boyle doesn’t flinch from the gritty, ugly aspects of grinding, serious poverty, but he also never rubs our faces in it. The film could serve as a way to help younger people understand the scope of extreme poverty in ways that Children’s Aid commercials never can. And the movie’s uplifting message of hope won’t leave them depressed, but rather feeling that there’s a way to change the world.
So of course the MPAA gave the movie an R. This has happened again and again over the years – movies that are perfect for teens that don’t whitewash the realities of the world get slapped with a restrictive rating that guarantees they can never see it. There’s no nudity in Slumdog Millionaire, and there’s no explicit sex. There’s some violence. There’s lots of tonally grim stuff. There’s some harder language. But it’s all true. Slumdog isn’t a documentary, but the lack of reality doesn’t change the basic truthfulness of the film.
I’m disappointed that Fox Searchlight didn’t make a bigger stink about this impending rating – the film deserves a PG-13 because it deserves to be seen by people 13 and older. If this was a book aimed at teens, it would be lauded for its truthfulness and educational value. Instead because this is a movie it gets slapped down with a rating that ensures it will never be as widely seen as it should be.