Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Namesake


Recently saw The Namesake with Kal Penn, who I have a big crush on. I read the book (Jhumpa Lahiri) after it came out. Lahiri is an extremely competent writer, but I find her work kind of forgetable - like, while I was watching the movie, it was all new to me. Penn is billed as the lead, but it's really two fabulous Indian actors that steal the show. Irfan Khan and Tabu play Penn's (Gogol Ganguli) parents, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli - in roles that are outrageously sensitive and demanding. Their connection is nearly indescribable, and I really can't think of the last time I've seen two actors form such an emotional bond. They're basically anyone's dream parents, who tolerate their young, somewhat rebellious children through their awkward phases while creating a new live for themselves in the United States. There's a great scene in the movie (and the book) where Ashima slips on Ashoke's shoes before she meets him (their parents arrange a meeting and he's waiting in the other room). Lahiri writes something like she tries on his shoes like she's trying on his life. Literally standing in his shoes, she discerns his character, and has enough confidence and courage to leave her family in India and move with him to NY. While Gogol's going through this awful teenager-period, Ashoke and Ashima patiently wait for him to stop being an asshole, with complete trust that he'll turn out ok. Penn's character goes through this type of transformation - from dorky teenager to (totally hot) post-collegiate architect. Those who avoided the stoner-flick Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle might be surprised by how admirably he handles this "serious" role, but anyone who has seen it knows that movie is a bit more than that-movie-where-Doogie-Howser-does-blow-off-a-chick's-ass.

The Namesake is beautiful in the same what that Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding (one of my fave films) was - both movies share themes of the Indian diaspora as well as relations between multiple generations. I'd really recommend it to just about anyone - it's a really, really beautiful film.

5 comments:

kbmulder said...

Yeah! Good review. I've been wanting to see this one. I didn't make it all the way through Harold and Kumar, I must admit, but I totally have respect for actors who can transition well between comedy and drama.

Did I ever tell you I got to screen Monsoon Wedding and then see Mira Nair speak at GWU in DC? It was an amazing experience.

Special K said...

Thanks! Ooooh - that must have been so awesome seeing Nair speak - do you remember what she said? I LOVE that movie.

kbmulder said...

Well, I don't remember much of what she said (6 years ago), but I remember thinking she was so smart. She did talk a little bit about Bollywood films, which I had never heard of at the time. Can't wait to see Namesake!

Kathy said...

I love love love Monsoon Wedding as well; I watch it frequently. I find it compelling yet really funny in a way that Hollywood seems incapable of. I don't know anything about The Namesake but from what you say here, I don't get the sense that it has the humorous element. True?

Special K said...

Uhm, there are definately a few humorous lines, but for the most part it's a drama.