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

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...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

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.