Book vs Movie: THE NAMESAKE

NamesakeI saw “The Namesake” tonight, which is based on Jumpa Lahiri’s book The Namesake. Great book, very good movie.

For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s about an Indian couple who have an arranged marriage and move to the U.S., where they have two children and settle outside New York City.  Their children grow up torn between their parents’ traditional Indian lifestyles and their wholly American sensibilities. The book is a poignant story about the push and pull of generations, tradition, and the need to forge one’s own identity.

So which is better? The book, of course, has the benefit of detail and eloquence. The movie, however, is faithful to the book, retaining the most important plot points and some of the details that made the book so memorable. (Though as I sit here now, flipping through the book, I am discovering a lot of little insights and plot developments that the movie, by necessity, left out). So while the book is perhaps more nuanced and certainly fuller than the movie, the movie admirably captures the bittersweet themes of the book.  Given the challenges of cramming 291 pages into 117 minutes, the adapted screenplay did about as good a job as it could have. Advantage: Tie.

Even if you haven’t read the book, go see the movie. Definitely the best I have seen this year, with the possible exception of “The Queen.”

Anyone care to weigh in on the merits of Book vs. Movie, “Namesake” edition?


  • April 30, 2007 - 12:12 am | Permalink

    I agree. I read the book quite a few years ago, loved it. I also really enjoyed the movie, which I saw recently with my bookclub (we’re suckers for book/movie combos)…everyone was tearing up at the end, and thought that it was a very successful adaptation.
    P.S. I finally saw The Queen last night…I agree also that was a great movie.

  • June 6, 2007 - 7:45 pm | Permalink

    I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why Moushumi cheats on Gogol with some philandering French guy. She has a good, safe life with Gogol. They’re both immigrants so they both understand each other (unlike Maxine and Gogol), so why would she purposely scrap that for an affair? In the movie, Moushumi answers the question: “I felt like I was turning into my mother.” She doesn’t want the safe life. This girl likes thrill, and there’s no thrill in monogamy with a Bengali man. That’s what would just make her average and boring.
    Also, I felt like Maxine and Gogol were a good couple– why did they really break up? The book left that open for interpretation, but it was abundantly clear in the movie that Maxine just didn’t understand what Gogol was going through. His relationship with his parents is more strained and terse, while her parents are open and comfortable. He can fit into her lifestyle, but she can’t fit into his, as we see in the funeral scene in his living room. She is inappropriately dressed and later, she cries, “What do you want me to do? You keep pushing me away” when Gogol tells her that spreading his father’s ashes is a “family thing.” As great as their relationship is, she just can’t understand some things, and it was really highlighted at this difficult time. Unfortunately, their relationship couldn’t weather it.

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