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Meet the Patels - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Meet the Patels
Directing: B
Writing: B-
Cinematography: C+
Editing: B+

Cynical viewers might easily fall into the trap of assuming much of Meet the Patels is staged, largely because of how utterly predictable it is. Who will Ravi Patel wind up picking at the end of his experience letting his Indian parents attempt to arrange his marriage in the United States? This is glaringly obvious within the first quarter of the film.

That doesn't mean the story is as contrived as it seems, however. I am myself married to someone from India, and the cultural attitudes and behaviors reflected here ring true. Ravi's mother and father clearly believe in the arranged-marriage system, which many Americans don't realize remains the most common way people get married in India. Ravi's parents were themselves in an arranged marriage, and he himself notes that "they're the happiest couple I know." Indeed, it's fun to watch these parents interact with each other and with their children.

Ravi is afraid of commitment and has broken up with his American, white girlfriend of two years -- who he's kept secret from his parents, who by default assume he'll be marrying an Indian woman. When Ravi decides he's open to trying to arrangement route, his parents dive in, and deep.

And this is where Meet the Patels sets itself apart, providing some real insight: who knew there was such an active network of people working on modern arranged marriages of Indians in America? A wide array of people, both within Ravi's family circle and even among people he doesn't eve know, pass around a sort of romantic resume they all refer to as "biodata sheets." Ravi literally flies from his current home in Los Angeles -- where he's an actor -- to several cities across the country just to go on dates with other women chosen from these biodata sheets. There's even a conference, which features what amounts of a very Indian-ized sort of speed dating.

This is largely couched in Ravi's desire to please his parents, plus his last-ditch effort to find a woman before he turns 30 (he's 29 at the time of filming). It might have been nice for the film to touch a little more on how being single at 30 is not the end of the world, but whatever.

This film is co-directed by Ravi and his sister, Geeta, who we hear talking behind camera many times but we don't see on camera until a brief moment during the closing credits. Early on, Ravi notes that Geeta is a bad cinematographer, pointing out how often we'll see the boom mike in the upper corner of shots. That has both the unfortunate effect of keeping us cognizant of how much the cinematography actually does leave to be desired, and the effect of giving the film a bit of scrappy charm.

The conceit of showing some of the face time interviews with Ravi gets a little tired, but it's forgivable. Meet the Patels has enough heart to make up for a lot. Just learning about Ravi's family is fun, as is learning about how they experience other Indians in America -- particularly other Patels, of which there are countless. (Ravi notes that his name is like "John Smith" in the U.S.) This gives the movie's very title extra meaning.

The story really focuses on Ravi's relationship with his parents, and their struggle with the duality of his culture as an Indian American. There's a moment captured on film as they're driving in the car that is deeply touching. Meet the Patels is riddled with imperfections on a technical level, but its story plays like a cornball romantic comedy that you just can't help but surrender to.

Ravi has one of many exasperating exchanges with his parents in MEET THE PATELS.

Overall: B
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