Monday, April 02, 2007

"The Namesake" -- a PeaceBang Review

I really wanted to love Mira Nair's new film"The Namesake," because Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite authors and I wanted to get lost in this beautiful story.

It was a mostly lovelyand moving film. The first half, focusing on the arranged marriage between Ashoke (Irrfan Khan) and Ashima (Tabu), was lyrical and memorable.

The second half of the film felt jarringly wrong on several levels, beginning with its first scene featuring some Really Really Bad Acting by adults pretending to be high schoolers teasing Kal Penn's character, Gogol, about his name. Oof, that was some bad acting!

Other problems, in random order:

> The clarity of the narrative goes to hell during a few key dramatic moments and I was left going, "Wait, what just happened? WHAT did he say?"
Nair just tries to cram too much novel into half a film, and in doing so loses the artistic and dramatic grip she so gorgeously establishes during the first half.

> If you have a main character who ages about 30 years over the course of the film and we hear her singing like a young enchantress when she's 18 or so, it doesn't make a lot of sense to hear the same, exact voice come out of her mid-40 year-old mouth at the end of the film. Because that can cause a filmgoer like me to say, "Oh my God, that voice is so dubbed," and that's just distracting.

> On Jacinda Barrett as the excessively blonde American twit: was her teeth-grinding level of twittiness intentional, or is she just a thoroughly unlikeable actress? I shouldn't be watching the film and wondering this. I shouldn't be watching this girl slobber all over Gogol and thinking to myself, "Gogol, for the love of Ganesh, break up with this twit. Break up with her."

I went away wishing that the film had never turned that corner into focusing on the life of Gogol. It was an achingly lovely film about two married people who were mad about each other. That's the story I wanted to see. That's the story I cared about. That's the story that Nair told with equal parts magic and understanding. The rest of it was a hurried, cliched meditation on cultural assimilation.

the namesake


Blogger Cynthia said...

Have you seen the Indian films "Earth", "Fire", and "Water" by Deepa Mehta? Wonderful stuff. She received death threats for making "Water". And of the three, that one is my favorite.

Blogger Katester said...

Oh, dear. I loved, LOVED, the novel and have been very worried about the film version because from the outset it looked like there were just too many changes (starting with moving the whole thing from Boston/Cambridge to NYC). This isn't the first mixed review I've seen but it's the first from someone whose taste I trust. Oh, well. I'll add it to Netflix and save it for sometime when there's nothing better to do. Or, better yet, I'll check it out from the library again and re-read with abandon.


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