More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 5%
Worth A Look80%
Average: 10%
Pretty Bad: 5%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 8 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Lucky Grandma by Jay Seaver

Vast of Night, The by Peter Sobczynski

High Note, The by Peter Sobczynski

Taking of Tiger Mountain, The by Jay Seaver

Trip to Greece, The by Peter Sobczynski

Night God by Jay Seaver

Alice (2019) by Jay Seaver

On a Magical Night (Chambre 212) by Jay Seaver

Driveways by Jay Seaver

Free Country by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Namesake, The
[] Buy posters from this movie
by brianorndorf

"The day Brian Orndorf liked a Kal Penn performance"
4 stars

In “The Namesake” actor Kal Penn goes from a disturbingly unfunny comedic presence to a solid dramatic one. It isn’t a perfect performance, but this isn’t a perfect film. “Namesake” is rough around the edges, but radiates a poignancy that’s impossible to shake.

Stepping into an arranged marriage, Ashima (Bollywood superstar Tabu) follows her husband Ashoke (Irfan Kahn) from India to New York City, where she’s overwhelmed by the loss of traditions and cultural personality, clinging to her husband for guidance and love. From their marriage comes baby Gogol (Kal Penn), who grows up caught between the heritage of his family and the fast lane of life in America. When tragedy snaps Gogol to attention, he searches his complicated life to discover what’s most important to him and his family.

In adapting Jhumpa Lahiri’s popular novel, writer Sooni Taraporevala has attempted to strip down the epic nature of Ashima and Askoke’s familial journey and conform it to fit the needs of a two-hour film. “Namesake” is a busy picture, grabbing themes and emotional speeds with both hands, trying to depict tangled cultural demands that have been transported thousands of miles from their core.

Director Mira Nair has the unlucky job of trying to scoop up the fragments of narrative and create something meaningful out of the parts. She succeeds, if only because this is an accomplished filmmaker who leads with her heart. “Namesake” demands a director who can bring out the moods of the characters and the colors of the film; to embrace the tragedy and show clearly how troubling a process adjustment can be.

For two acts, Nair has total control of her picture. Spending time with both Gogol and his troubles assuming the legacy of his literary-bound name and the trials of his parents, Nair blends the subplots delicately, keeping the audience invested in these people through observations of their silence. “Namesake” touched me deeply, especially in Ashima’s journey from her home to America, registered with pinpoint accuracy in Tabu’s emotive performance. Avoiding sentimentality, Tabu (a phenomenal actress) demonstrates the fear and love in Ashima’s actions without overplaying her hand.

Penn’s Gogol is a much more conflicted character, and it’s wonderful to see the actor not reaching for a laugh for once in his tainted career. Gogol has to register to the audience as a person comfortable with his own life, yet nagged by the influence of his parents, who want their son to follow in their footsteps but understand life in America doesn’t always permit that. Penn lays out Gogol’s frustrations well, and even when the performance becomes capped by melodrama, it’s a nice stab from Penn at a rounded piece of acting.

Once Gogol’s distanced life is challenged by tragedy, “Namesake” goes from a softly involving family drama to a complete mess. Nair seems in a fury to tie up Gogol’s dramatic arc, and speeds the last 30 minutes up to shoehorn in extensive plot points just to complete Lahiri’s story. It doesn’t benefit the movie’s sense of emotional luxury in the least, with characters ushered in and out without any respect and a constant sensation that the picture is going to end, only to have Nair drag the corpse for another five minutes, and then another five’s strange to witness a film commit seppuku like this.

I was mad at “Namesake” for deflating; ruining a flowering tale of custom with jagged storytelling sprints that derail the sense of calm around the whole endeavor. This is a terrific film, but sends out the audience in a hurried fashion that betrays what Nair was working so diligently to achieve: a sense of peace.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 03/09/07 16:20:41
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/01/10 brian Best film I've seen in years, and I watch about 1000 per year. 5 stars
8/17/08 mr.mike It was fairly interesting. 4 stars
7/03/07 William Goss A familiar, simplistic story that, while nicely told, simply goes on too long. 3 stars
5/24/07 Abs it's worth a watch once,but all the best scenes are already spoilt in the trailer 3 stars
4/22/07 Anthony A thoughtful, gentle and thoroughly enjoyable ride. A bit clunky at times, but worth seeing 4 stars
4/03/07 ahnold Not what I expected either, but glad I saw it. Worth a look. 4 stars
3/21/07 dmitry Very schmaltzy but still worthwhile, like "Fiddler on the Roof" for Bengalis 4 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  09-Mar-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Nov-2007

  DVD: 30-Jul-2007

  05-Apr-2007 (M)

[trailer] Trailer

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast