What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing, of course. “Slumdog Millionaire” deserved all the Oscars it got on Sunday night. It’s a magnificent film. But scroll down and you’ll see that something’s amiss. I was enjoying every minute of the film when I saw it in January — until, that is, Jamal and Latika reappeared as young adults, portrayed by Dev Patel and Freida Pinto. It was still a great film from beginning to end, but I thought their relationship at that point strained credulity. Look closer and you’ll see why.
Ms. Pinto is a ravishing beauty, currently 24 years of age. Young Mr. Patel is 18, looks like he’s 15 and possibly starring as a math nerd on a Disney Channel sitcom for pre-teens. A goofy-looking kid who might get a lot of laughs but never stand a chance of dating the star. With that image firmly in mind, I no longer bought the love story — though the cinematography, atmospherics and wonderful score continued to thrill. But I could only envision Jamal and Latika being friends, with no hope (on Jamal’s part) or desire (on Latika’s part) for potential romance.
…Oh, I’m sure there are plenty of grandmas who’d like to pinch Dev Patel’s cheeks and serve him some cookies and chai. I know how this feels, because, as a young adult, I got my share of pinched cheeks and offers of brownies from kindly grandmothers. But I always got turned down for dates with girls my age with whom I actually wished to spend time.
In fact, take away the moustache, which I couldn’t grow when I was 18 (or even 23), and I sort of looked like a WASP version of Dev Patel back then. I was certainly as skinny as he is — and truth is, I still am, having never filled out like a normal adult.
Actually, the caricature of me is quite out of date. My hair is mostly gray now, and I’ve got some beard-like thing around the vicinity of my chin (it’s more of a trim Vandyke than a Joaquin Phoenix root-ball). But my daughters still hate the beard, and think it makes me look super old). In any event, I still don’t qualify as a “chick magnet,” and never will. And neither will Mr. Patel, unless he actually got some of those slumdog millions of rupees he won in the movie.
In other Oscar news, I’d like to congratulate this year’s winner for Best Actor. Sean Penn is one of our finest living character actors, and his award for playing Harvey Milk is much deserved. On Oscar night, Penn’s acceptance speech was another fine turn on the stage — before a live audience, no less: His speech was brief, humorous, thoughtful and coherent — something we’ve come to expect from British actors accepting Oscars. It wasn’t the typical American acceptance speech, where the actor gushes nonsensically for twenty minutes, awkwardly thanking everyone in creation, and making the television audience reach for their remotes. But even more impressive, Mr. Penn managed to speak for four minutes without once reaching for a cigarette. Now THAT’S acting!