The Namesake

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2.5 Stars
This is an earnest, heartfelt and well-intentioned movie, and I really wish that I liked it more than I do. It’s basically about some immigrants from India who name their son “Gogol” after the Russian writer, and when he grows up he isn’t happy about that.

More specifically, it’s about an upper-middle class couple from India who move to the United States, work hard and prosper. They send their children to elite universities. The children are a little bit rebellious, but not very. The children seem a bit shallow, but probably they will outgrow that. They all seem pretty well-adjusted. Sometimes they are unhappy but mostly they are happy. Nothing particularly unusual seems to happen to any of them.

This is all very admirable but it doesn’t make much of a movie. A movie needs to show us something dramatic, or something absurd or something exotic; something that we haven’t seen before. There are a few nice scenes set in India that give us a glimpse of the culture, but there isn’t very much of this. For the most part these people don’t seem very different from people whose ancestors have lived in America for a dozen generations. I suppose that might be an interesting insight in itself, but the filmmakers themselves don’t seem to be aware of it, and even if they were I’m not sure that it would be enough to sustain a two-hour movie.

There have been countless movies made about the American immigrant experience. Unfortunately almost all of them have been more interesting than this one.