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

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

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.