Who's in It:
Kal Penn, Jacinda Barrett, Irfan Khan, Tabu
The Basics: A young Indian-American grows up struggling with his identity. But mostly, he just can't deal with the fact that his name is Gogol Ganguli. Yeah, you should be named Dave White instead. That'll make your life easier. Always having at least one other kid in your class at school with your exact name. Every bill collector in the world calling you all the time, thinking they've got the right deadbeat harassing you, calling you a liar when you insist, "Sorry, man, you've got the wrong Dave White on this one." Yeah, it's great having a name like this.
What's the Deal? Sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah, this movie. See, I saw Van Wilder: the Rise of Taj late last year, and it soured me on Penn. In fact, while watching that one, I wanted to reach up into the screen and smack him in the face. Every bit of goodwill he earned in the really awesome Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was obliterated, so I dreaded even looking at this movie for five minutes. I secretly gave it 30 minutes to prove itself or else I was going to walk out, go home and watch American Idol to see what happened this week with the nudie-pictures girl whatever her name is. And surprise, it's more than decent. It's smart and moving and funny and gives Penn a chance to show that he can be reasonably dramatic. Goodwill re-earned.
Pedigree: From director Mira Nair (Vanity Fair, Mississippi Masala, Salaam Bombay!) and based on the novel by acclaimed writer Jhumpa Lahiri. So, it's definitely the sort of gentle, literate, female-created thing you take your mom to see, you know?
France Does Not Have a Lock on the One-Named Actresses: They may have Miou-Miou, but India has Tabu (she plays Penn's mom), the singing Bollywood star, making what seems to be her English-language (more or less) debut.
Want to Read More About It? Even if everything else about this movie had sucked, it would still be memorable for naming a main character after Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol. He wrote Dead Souls, which should have been on one of your lit syllabi somewhere along the way. Unless you went to a party school like I did.