Who am I? Am I a product of my environment? Am I a continuation of my culture and my namesake? Am I my own person? These are the questions presented in the massively under viewed “The Namesake.” The Namesake stars Kal Pen, which is a good thing and a bad thing. Primarily know for his Harold and Kumar go to White Castle films, in The Namesake he showed an amazing depth of ability, pain of a character and showed me more than I thought he was capable of as an actor. Unfortunately, most fans of Harold and Kumar would not want to see a coming of age film about a first generation Indian-American. Most art house film fans would automatically dismiss a film from the guy in “that stupid stoner film who was on House.” Both groups would miss out on a great film. Kal Pen can act!!!
We have all taken a job to pay a bill. Actors take jobs to pay their bills. See George Cloney in “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”. See Denzel Washington in “Carbon Copy.” See Natalie Portman in “The Phantom Menace.”
There is an amazing scene (SPOILER ALERT) after Penn’s father died. At the time, Penn, newly out of college, was dating a rich white, blonde woman woman and essentially embracing her upper class lifestyle and completely ignoring his family. Then he gets the shocking news. His father dies. The scene follows with him shaving his head while great rap music plays in the background. The scenes blends a flashback with Penn’s own father shaving his head after his father died. This blend shows Penn returning to his heritage. This transformation foreshadows how he will address the relationship with his girlfriend and all future relationships.
The Namesake shows how someone evolves. He was the loyal son. Then he was his own person. They he became the person his family wanted him to be. The film concludes with no obvious answer. He realizes that his life journey does not have a map. Like most people in their 20s, he does not know what the right thing is for him, but he is discovering what is NOT the right path. This does not provide full enlightenment, but it does help to shape the person that he is becoming.