Thursday, May 17, 2007

Film Review: The Namesake

So this was movie no. 2 in my double feature. Personally, I could have gone for something a little more action-packed after Waitress, but this was my friend's choice and I'm a sucker for a pretty lady.

The Namesake is a movie about two generations of an Indian family and the struggle between their traditions and their desires.

It's a good movie. I enjoyed it. But like most movies these days, it's a little long. Typical of films based on books, it seems to struggle between being faithful to the book and catering to the audience. If this had been simply a movie, I'd be crucifying the filmmakers for not cutting a rather pointless series of events covering about a half hour near the end of the film. As it is, I understand. Gogol needs to have his story too. Still, it was too long.

My other complaint was the screenplay. Every twist and turn is set up. Nothing catches you by surprise. This really hinders the impact of some of the more dramatic events. Also, the "bad" characters slip into very convenient cliches when the filmmakers want you to turn against them. This shows a lack of characterization and makes the writer look lazy. The filmmakers also seem to woefully overestimate our affection for some of these "bad" characters. If we don't care about them in the first place, then their "turns" don't affect us.

As for the characters and acting, the parents (Ashoke and Ashima) played by Irfan Khan and Tabu (is that like Hindi for "Cher"?) are quite enjoyable and far more entertaining than Kumar... I mean Kal Penn (Gogol). Penn has a likeable demeanor, but not so much in this movie and I remain unconvinced the guy is suited to dramatic roles (I just about choked when I saw him as a terrorist - go figure - on an episode of 24).

But the sentiment behind the story saves the movie from these missteps. It's a movie not without its charms and the overall movie experience is a thumbs up.

I hope some of my South Asian friends will tell me what they thought of it. Something tells me they'd get a bit more of a kick out of the culture conflicts.

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