Review: The Namesake (Latinos can definitely relate)
Last week I caught The Namesake. This movie is phenomenal. Here’s the 411.
WHAT:The Namesake, movie
Kal Penn, the star of White Castle and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, takes a somber role in this adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel. The Namesake spans two generations in two distinct continents and ways of life as it tries to answer the question: What does it mean to be an American family? Even though the question remains to be answered, the poetic language of cross-cultural experience transcends boundaries with a commendable cast of American and Bollywood actors and the acclaimed director of Monsoon Weddings and Vanity Fair.
As Gogol, Kal Penn perfectly emotes the complexity of being raised in the States by immigrant parents. He’s late to his high-school graduation party because he’s passing around a joint with his best pals. And after graduating from Yale, he prefers to hang out with his white girlfriend and her wealthy parents than to visit his parents in Westchester. But a sudden tragedy brings him home. In dealing with his intense grief, Gogol rediscovers the dual-meanings of his name. Gogol’s reexamination leads him to a new life with a modern, Bengali wife and a deeper appreciation for his parents. While the title refers to Gogol, the movie’s strength lies in his parents, Ashima and Ashoke, who are played by Indian stars Tabu and Irfan Khan. They’re the true immigrants, dealing with the radical cultural shift between their homeland and the United States. The kids grow up mostly American, but the parents must constantly navigate both worlds.
Ty Burr from the Boston Globe comments on this movie: “The Namesake has a deep, alluvial poetry to it, like a mighty river reaching the sea. It’s mysterious and ordinary, insightful and banal, rambling and precise, and it is altogether unexpected.” And Owen Gliberman from Entertainment Weekly describes The Namesake as a “Moving and marvelous new cross-cultural family saga.”
This movie simultaneously captures Jhumpa Lahiri’s poetic language on screen and the immigrant experience on a colorful Bengali canvas. The Namesake shows the cross-cultural experience of many immigrant families who strive to become part of the New World without forgetting the old. And it depicts all this without immigrant stereotypes, cultural irrelevance, idiot husbands, long-suffering wives, and annoyed kids. Many U.S.-born Latinos can relate to Gogol as he depicts the dance between his culture and that of his parents, as well as the balancing act of being a modern American and fulfilling his parents’ traditional wishes. I certainly did! So if you’re interested in foregoing predictable movies and films with illogical plots and a profusion of blood, I dare you to experience the touching, universal journey in The Namesake. It may help you understand your parents, yourself, and your multi-cultural balancing act.
WHERE: in some theaters
RUN TIME: 122 minutes
STARRING: Kal Penn, Tabu, Irfan Khan, Jacinda Barrett, more cast
DIRECTOR: Mira Nair