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Meet the Patels
It was turning into a bad week for marriages here at DVD Talk when I had to suffer through the Duck Dynasty Wedding Special that was released last January. Duck Dynasty's wedding spectacular only reminded me that whatever the ceremony is supposed to represent, it devolved into a meaningless television spectacle. However, the week was finally redeemed by Meet the Patels, a comic faux documentary that dealt with an IndianAmerican man's transition into the world of arranged marriages within Indian culture.
Meet the Patels is by siblings Geeta and Raj V. Patel, and it deals with Raj's navigation into the dating world via an arranged marriage system from his parents' home country of India. With help from his mom and dad, Raj sets out on a series of dates with Indian girls who may become his potential wife. Raj's journey shows his disillusionment with American-style dating, despite the fact that Raj has lived in the U.S. his entire life. His willingness to find love through his culture's customs shows the disparities between American and Indian ideas of love and courtship.
The film begins when Raj breaks up with Audrey, ending a relationship that he kept secretly from his family for two years because she is white. After the breakup, Raj goes to India with his family during wedding season, thrust into his quest to find a wife. His seemingly overbearing mother and father act as a kind of dating agency who introduce him to numerous women and people in India who regularly remind Raj that he is approaching his thirties and is not married.
Raj barrels through the film via a series of cross-country dates, dating websites, matchmakers, and the aggressive insistence of his mother, who is depicted as a staunch traditionalist regarding Indian marriage customs. His search is complicated by ideas about love that he learned while growing up in America. In comparison to Duck Dynasty's depiction of weddings as ratings spectacular, Meet the Patels uses the complications and tensions between ideas about marriage from two different places (America and India) to underlines themes about commitment and love.
The movie was primarily shot hand-held with what appears to be a low-end camcorder. The shaky, hurried camera work and the quickly paced editing give Meet the Patels a breezy energy that puts it on par with most good romantic comedies. There are film clips, graphics, and animated sequences that contribute to its lightheartedness. The film uses multimedia formats with economy and achieves the effect of creating a piece of work that is fast-paced and visually dynamic.
Meet the Patels' biggest achievement is its sincerity. As an American, Raj is at odds with the strict marriage rules that his parents grew up with. He maintains a connection to his ancestry that is close enough to prevent his sense of alienation from Indian culture and his rediscovery of it from becoming condescending. Raj's close connection to both of his parents, and his co-director/sister Geeta contributes to the sincerity that lends the movie its charm and likability.
As in any good romantic comedy, Raj finds love in an unexpected way. There is a compromise between Indian and American views of marriage in Meet the Patels that resolves Raj's quest and his inner conflicts in a way that allows him to take on positive aspects of both of his cultures.
Meet the Patels delves into the ways people learn to love in a way that the recent Duck Dynasty wedding spectacular was incapable of conveying, or considering.
Meet the Patels was filmed in a full-frame (1.78:1 aspect ratio), low-end format that compliments the story's energy. The primary footage shot on video has been transferred well and shows few digital artifacts or distortion. The lo-fi quality of the video blends nicely with the much sharper looking animated sequences and other digital effects.
The audio is in 5.1 surround and has no obviously outstanding qualities or defects. But well-balanced audio is an achievement for a movie that was seemingly constructed of quickly shot material. Audio is carried very evenly when viewed with multispeaker systems.
The Meet the Patels DVD release has no special features.
By the time I was ready to watch Meet the Patels, I was already experiencing a kind of fatigue regarding shows and movies that dealt with marriage due to a bad experience with a Duck Dynasty Wedding Special DVD. But Meet the Patels explored ideas and expectations about marriage in a way that was funnier and far more nuanced than anything that the reality TV practitioners at A&E could create. The film's naturalist style, multimedia approach, and its humor give Meet the Patels some of the best tendencies of romantic comedy.