Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Namesake

I didn't write anything yesterday because I spent the whole day trying to figure out why Firefox keeps eating all my CPUs. Still no satisfactory answer. In the meantime I'll just keep rebooting the computer every time I use it. It's remarkably annoying.

Anyway, last night a Friend and I went to see the Creative Screenwriting screening of The Namesake followed by a Q&A with the director, screenwriter and two of the stars.

I was really excited to see this film when I saw the previews, then somehow when it came out I completely missed it. It came and went and even though I wanted to see it I didn't even realize it was out. So good job, studio publicity machine. You really botched it.

Here's how else they botched it. The previews had me convinced this was a film about an Indian-American who discovers some secret about how he got his name so he goes on a trip to India to figure out the story behind it, some secret from his dad's past that helps the boy understand his culture.

That's not what this film is at all.

It took me a little while to accept that. It's like when you order Sprite and get water. For a second your tongue rebels against the unexpected taste, but then you get used to it and remember how good water is. I kept waiting for the boy in search of his identity story to start and then I had to accept that this is not that film. Once I did that, it was a pretty good movie. I laughed, I cried, I asked my Friend, who is Pakistani-American, to explain some of the more subtle cultural references.

The film is about family. First it follows a newly married couple as they emigrate to the US. Then it's about their son and his bizarre name and how he copes with being different in a majority white American culture.

Even if your parents aren't immigrants - and mine aren't - the teenage rebellion and annoyance at doing what your parents want you to is relatable to everybody. But if your parents are immigrants, this is your film. Friend teared up several times as events reminded her of her own experiences with her family. During the movie her mom texted her and Friend rolled her eyes. At the end of the film she was all remorseful and ready to call her mom first thing in the morning.

The director, Mira Nair, is exactly the kind of director I aspire to be. She's fast, efficient and considerate. She had 11 days to get all the footage in India and she did it by being organized as hell. In one day of shooting she had 13 set-ups and it sounds like she did it all without pissing anybody off. Amazing. And what a crew she must have had to get that done.

All in all it was a quiet film, not at all what the studios promised in the trailers, but a good film all the same, and it made Friend and me have a long, philosophical discussion while she drove me around searching for my car in the parking deck. It also makes me glad I'm going home for Christmas.

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