The Namesake

"Very Good"

The Namesake Review


Mira Nair's latest film, a translation of Jhumpa Lahiri's emphatically praised book The Namesake, caps off a theme that has been heavy in her work thus far: assimilation and cultural duty. Though she's been making films since the mid-'80s, Nair didn't attain commercial attention until 2002 with Monsoon Wedding, an exuberant comedy about a New Delhi wedding between a woman who just ended an affair with a married producer and a native of India prospering in Texas. The modest hit gave her enough clout to secure her a director's chair on the last adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair, an England-based novel given an Indian flair on the big screen.

Monsoon Wedding turned the slow grinding of cross-culture gears into a comfy piece of visual pop. It confronted the situation but seemed complacent enough to leave the confrontation in simple, digestible terms; a stylized My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In contrast, Vanity Fair, originally a satire of England's manners and traditions, was taken deep into the mystic, hitting its most absurd note when Reese Witherspoon seductively belly danced with a tribe of women from India. Though it was easy to see where these moments were pointing, The Namesake gives Nair a broad canvas and a more concise frame to study the American identity and its effects on other cultures without any affectation or pretense.

Gogol (Kal Penn), born in the U.S. from two immigrant parents, has assimilated the culture given to him. His father, Ashoke (the brilliant Irfan Khan), doesn't mind his son's American disposition so much but can't comprehend the levity he shows towards the erstwhile traditions of his ancestors. It's the unexpected death of a family member that brings Gogol, named after a Russian eccentric, back to his ancestral heritage. It also perpetuates his growing displeasure with his white girlfriend Maxine (Jacinda Barrett) for whom his mother, Ashima (the radiant Tabu), appropriately feigns acceptance.

Moving fluidly from the sweltering railways and breezy domiciles of Calcutta to the desolate snowfall of New York City, The Namesake seems to be most concerned with American identity. To Ashoke, American cultureias something he can learn and pick the ripest ideas from. To Gogol, his tradition is Western culture and his attempt to learn his parents' culture becomes a fumbling, arduous endeavor. When Gogol leaves Maxine, his next relationship is with his wife Moushami (Zuleikha Robinson), whom he thought snotty when they first met in his teen years (their parents attempted to set them up) but now is a fully Americanized woman with business suits and a taste for upscale bars, white friends, and adultery.

Gogol is one of those great lost souls, unable to separate his identity from his current state of existence but never happy with being pointed one way or another. Nair foregoes portrait-detailing to turn his life into an intricate landscape of ideologies and beliefs, being ever so careful to never step on a soapbox or raise her voice above a lilting coo. Though tonally rocky after the first hour, Penn's restrained performance allows for a distinct concentration on mood that elevates the film above Nair's past entertainments. Here, the director has found her most apt presentation of the American way, its blemishes and beauty marks completely intact.

What kind of name is Jacinda, anyway?



The Namesake

Facts and Figures

Run time: 122 mins

In Theaters: Friday 9th March 2007

Box Office USA: $13.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $20.1M

Budget: $12M

Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Production compaines: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Mirabai Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Fresh: 110 Rotten: 18

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Gogol, Tabu as Ashima Ganguli, as Ashoke Ganguli, Sahira Nair as Sonali Ganguli, as Maxine Ratliffe, as Moushumi Mazoomdar, Ruma Guha Thakurta as Ashoke's Mother, Sabyasachi Chakraborty as Ashima's Father, Supriya Choudhury as Ashima's Grandmother

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.