Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Namesake

posted by jmiller
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexuality/nudity, a scene of drug use, some disturbing images and brief language.
Profanity:Some strong language
Nudity/Sex:Sexual references and situations, brief nudity, adultery
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking, smoking, marijuana
Violence/Scariness:Accident, dead bodies, injuries, sad deaths
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

Ashima (Indian superstar Tabu) pauses before entering the living room to meet her prospective bridegroom and his family. Their shoes have been left outside the door, according to the customs of her home in India. Ashima sees that inside the shoes it says “Made in the USA.” She quietly slips her foot inside, trying them on for size. This lovely moment sets the stage for a thoughtful and engrossing study of identity, assimilation, and finding the way home.


Years later, when that prospective bridegroom, Ashoke Ganguli (Irfan Khan) has been her husband for decades and the father of her children, he asks why she picked him over the other candidates her parents presented to her. She smiles and says he was better than the alternatives. But we know that she, like us, is thinking back to that moment of slipping her foot in his shoe. Later in the film, Ashoke’s son Gogol (Kal Penn) will also try on his father’s shoes, and again it will mean the beginning of a journey.


In fact, there are many journeys in this story about the Ganguli family and their life in America — trains, airplanes, carts, and automobiles fill the screen. It begins with Ashoke on a train ride that has significance we will not learn until Gogol does, near the end of the film. It is not until then that he learns the meaning of his name.


Or, one of his names. In the American hospital, a nurse asks Ashima the baby’s name for the birth certificate. Ashima explains that they must wait until they hear from the maternal grandmother what the name will be. It is her responsibility to select the child’s “good name.” But the hospital needs a name right away, so it is his “pet name” of Gogol that goes onto the birth certificate.


Gogol grows up very American, a little embarrassed by his funny-sounding name and his family’s traditional customs. He is bored on his family’s trips back to India. But it is there that he decides what he will become — the Taj Mahal inspires him to study architecture. He becomes engaged to a pretty blonde whose family accepts him warmly (though introducing him as “the Indian architect”). But he comes to feel — and need to feel — a deeper connection with his heritage, though it will take a while to understand what that means.


Director Mira Nair and a superb cast tell the story of Jhumpa Lahiri’s prize-winning book beautifully. It is so spacious and epic in scope that it feels a little truncated at times, especially when there are great leaps in time. But the engrossing and multi-layered performances of Penn, Kahn, and Tabu and Nair’s luscious imagery constantly draw us in, making the story at the same time very particular and utterly universal.

Parents should know that this movie includes some strong language, sexual references and situations (including adultery), and brief nudity. Characters drink and smoke cigarettes and marijuana. There is a train accident and in the aftermath we see dead and injured people, and there are sad deaths. A strength of the movie is its sensitive and perceptive exploration of racial and cultural issues.


Families who watch this movie should talk about their own family heritage and the issues that arise in the United States from its history as a “melting pot.” Most American families have stories about efforts of family members to either be “more American” or to hold on to cultural and ethnic traditions. What made Gogol change his mind about his name? Why was his name so important? What do you think about the idea of having a “good name” and a “pet name?”

Families who enjoy this movie will want to read the book by Jhumpa Lahiri and, of course The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol. Another good book exploring the immigrant experience is Anne Tyler’s Digging to America. Families will also enjoy Nair’s other films, including Mississippi Masala and Monsoon Wedding and Gurinder Chadha’s films Bend It Like Beckham and What’s Cooking?



Previous Posts

Women Talk About Making Movies
The New York Times talked to women in Hollywood about making movies. Some of the highlights: “What’s wrong with bossy? It’s O.K. for a man.” Barbra Streisand, Director (“The Prince of Tid

posted 3:55:17pm Jan. 27, 2015 | read full post »

When The Movie Plays With the Studio Logo
I got a big kick out of the post by Matt Singer from Screen Crush about movies that begin before the beginning by amending the studio's opening logo.   Most recently, of course "The LEGO Movie" did the logo in Legos.  But before that, movies like "Scott Pilgrim," "Cat Ballou," "Alien 3," and "Wate

posted 8:00:10am Jan. 27, 2015 | read full post »

From Hermione to Belle: Emma Watson to Star in Live-Action "Beauty and the Beast"
Disney is working on a new live-action "Beauty and the Beast," a follow to the upcoming "Cinderella," and they have announced that "Harry Potter's" Emma Watson will star as Belle. It will be directed by Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls," "Kinsey"). Watson made the announcement on her Facebook page: “I

posted 12:18:20pm Jan. 26, 2015 | read full post »

SAG Awards 2015
The Screen Actors Guild awards for television and movies in 2014 are in and it looks like Patricia Arquette, Julianne Moore, and J.K. Simmons are in line to bring home Oscars on February 22. The tough one to call right now is Best Actor, down to the wire between Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton.

posted 9:00:38am Jan. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Paddington Music Video: Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani Sing "Shine"
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/E924t_5SGkE?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:00:22am Jan. 26, 2015 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.