Meet the Patels
Film Review by Kam Williams
Indian-American Bachelor Searches for Wife with Help of Traditional Parents in Dysfunctional Family Documentary
29 year-old Ravi Patel’s parents, Champa and Vasant, are Indian immigrants who have begun pressuring him to find a wife in accordance with traditional courting customs. That means that they should be an intimate part of a process which would only consider a woman from the same caste, and preferably one already sharing the family surname.
However, because Ravi was was born and raised in the United States, he had little interest in choosing a mate in such a limited fashion, especially since for the past couple years he’s been secretly dating a white girl, Audrey, a ravishing redhead he’s already in love with. Nevertheless, he not only decided to allow his folks to play matchmakers, but to let his big sister, Geeta, film his comical attempt to find Ms. Right via a series of carefully orchestrated introductions.
Can a thoroughly-American college grad turn on a dime and agree to an arranged marriage when it’s time to settle down? That is the basic proposition posed by Meet the Patels, a delightful documentary co-directed by siblings Ravi and Geeta.
The picture is relentlessly hilarious, thanks to Champa and Vasant’s well-intentioned, if overbearing style of helicopter parenting. It is clear that they just want the best for their son, even if their concerns reflect their values, not ones he ever embraced.
They escort Ravi to the subcontinent to attend a Patel Matrimonial convention where he has an opportunity to speed date a profusion of eligible bachelorettes. When he fails to make a love connection, they return to California where there is a much smaller pool of appropriate potential paramours to pick from.
“We’re paying the price, culturally, for moving to the U.S.,” his mother moans when her son rejects an overweight engineer she found for him at an online biodata website. Meanwhile, comments from relatives like, “I need a marriage this year; I might die soon,” only serve to ratchet up the tension. And patiently waiting in the wings is his ex, Audrey, who confesses “I have an interest in being your partner.” So, something’s gotta give.
Ravi’s difficult decision ultimately rests on whether ethnicity matters more to him than compatibility in the selection of a life mate.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for mature themes, suggestive images and smoking
In English and Gurjarati with subtitles
Running time: 88 minutes