Thursday, March 15, 2007

So I saw the Namesake Last Night.

Amid a flurry of police cars barreling down Houston in response to a shooting in the Village....anyway.

As mentioned:

It is the film adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri Pulitizer prize winning novel. Website here. Jhumpa Lahiri gets a free ad here because she' s not only a pretty good writer, but a supporter of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, she even gave a reading at Tilley's back in October to help raise funds.

Definitely worth seeing, even in the Angelica which makes you feel like you're watching a film on an airplane (long and narrow and little or no gradation ).

Personally, I don' t have a whole lot of interest in the 'immigrant experience' story/cliche, and little sympathy for the identity crisis. But that's not what the film is really about. (it does provide for all the funny moments you would imagine from a person going to a place where there is no running hot and cold water, supermarkets, laundry machines and cereal to America).

The scope of the film presents a challenge for any actor: Tabu plays the mother of Gogol is played by Kal Penn who is 29 - Tabu is 37 (and still pretty darn attractive). at one point Penn is supposed to be high school student and another in his mid twenties...Tabu plays an even wider range - 20 or so to 45 as does Iffran Khan who plays the father. Conveying that on screen can't just be done with make up. And both Khan and Tabu were able to believably s convey the impact of the vast changes that moving half way across the world, two children and twenty years would bring. Nair coaxed good performances out of everyone, but in my opinion, Tabu stole the show.

There was also a good performance by Jacinda Barret who plays Max, Gogol's first girlfriend. The depiction of her and her family is a pretty good but subtle condemnation of the polite emptiness of Upper Middle/Upper class America....perhaps most of America.

The film definitely shows an erosion of values and culture from one generation to the next, and I would be the first to agree with the above depiction of Americans (read Caucasians). But what the film didn't go into is that there are large swaths of America that have values and lifestyles similar to the Bengali - it isn't just Bengali vs. Decadent Western values - here in America, we have the Mormons, the Bible Belt, devout Catholics and Amish (and the one shaker left)...and India has its Page 3 society. But in the NPR world view, the one is 'culture' the other is 'backward'.

I thought the film 'fell apart' a little in the last quarter - the jumps seem the result of a heavy handed editing.... but it ended in a congruent way that made that part make sense. Kind of like watching a football game - let me be pretentious - rugby match - and seeing the team play well for 80% of the game, start to slip up and then score the winning try at the whistle.

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