Review: ‘Meet the Patels’ examines love, Indian-American style
Beneath its warm coating of humor and familial love, there’s some serious business going on in the documentary “Meet the Patels.”
It’s a delight of a film, but it also examines problems of assimilation, culture clash, modern romance and the value (or prison) of tradition. Which is quite a bit of stuff for a movie that’s just plain fun to watch.
Meet Ravi Patel, an actor who’s just about to turn 30 and who, to the dismay of his traditional Indian parents, is not yet married. He’s just broken up with the only girlfriend he’s ever had, Audrey — a white girl his parents don’t even know was ever in the picture — mostly because he always envisioned himself settling down with an Indian-American like himself.
Wanting to please his parents, and after being badgered nonstop about needing to be married on a trip to India, Ravi agrees to let them help arrange a marriage for him, or at least help him scout out some possible matches. At the same time Ravi and his older, also-unmarried sister, Geeta, a documentary filmmaker, decide to turn the process into a movie.
And what a process. It turns out Ravi can’t just marry any Indian woman, his bride to be also has to have the last name Patel, which comes from a distinct region in India. Luckily, there are plenty of Patels in America. Amazingly, they have this system of exchanging romance-ready resumes. Ravi’s parents hand out his resume, they get sent plenty of resumes from around the country and soon Ravi is hopscotching from state to state for a series of arranged dates.
Unfortunately, nothing clicks. So then Ravi turns to Internet dating sites made especially for Indian-Americans. Eventually he goes to a huge Patel convention where unmarried Patels gather to check one another out.
Along the way, there are interviews with other Indian-Americans and even the occasional mixed race couple on dating, parental pressure, social awkwardness and expectations. There are revelations disturbing (apparently skin tone, the lighter the better, is a big issue) and hilarious (Ravi’s parents talk of their own marriage, which happened after they’d talked less than 10 minutes). And there are moments of real tension.
You pretty much know where the movie’s going to end from the start, but along the way, Ravi and Geeta unveil a culture within America that few outsiders likely know and they draw a portrait of a loving family that seems capable of surmounting all obstacles, including love itself.
‘Meet the Patels’
Rated PG for thematic elements, brief suggestive images and incidental smoking
Running time: 88 minutes