Meet the Patels
"Meet the Patels" by Geeta Patel and her brother Ravi, an actor, is a buoyant and charming documentary about the quest for romantic harmony.
He agrees to go with his parents to India for holiday. During the vacation his father and mother begin to question him about marriage. They needle him and he reluctantly agrees to accept advice. Ravi's mother is a matchmaker for clients and friends. Ravi's single status is an embarrassment.
His quest takes him out of L.A. across the country and beyond to Ontario. He likes one girl, but she doesn't call back. His father Vasant sends him profiles of ladies that are as cold as resumes. He joins Match.com, all the while thinking of Audrey. Guilt weighs upon him.
Ravi's parents are as lively as any family in a Woody Allen comedy. They constantly invade his sense of privacy. At times the henpecking very nearly reaches hysteria. Ravi is used to sweating it out under a mother's prodding.
What can Ravi do? For the most part he is cool under some paternal screws. Exhaustingly, it is revealed that Amor is a dizzying process of first impressions and intent. The profiles are handed out to scores upon scores of relatives: uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, neices, neighbors and grand-uncles. Then there are the parties, conventions, events and weddings.
Tons of eligible ladies float by in glitter-breasted saris. The parents insist on a traditional Indian wedding, which in their mind means an arranged marriage to an Indian girl. But Ravi is unmoved.
The camerawork by Ravi's sister Geeta is quirky and feels intentionally askew, but unlike "The Blair Witch Project" or TV's The Office, the wave like motions echo the humor of Ravi Patel and compliment his charm.
Refreshingly, there are some tense moments. In one scene, Ravi talks haltingly in a phone call to his ex girlfriend. The scene is full of uncomfortable pauses, hesitance and teasing sarcasm. It is a singularly vivid and striking episode.
One gets the sense that this tightly knit and far reaching Patel family is composed of Gujarati Godfathers, though considerably warmer and more benevolent than The Corleones.
There are some comical animated sequences that off-set the tensions, reminicent of the film "American Splendor" in effervescent black and white.
Geeta Patel's touch is skillful, having the ability to give the camera its verve and highlighting the drama while remaining ghostly and unobtrusive. Her shared plight of singlehood is only revealed on the periphery and breathlessly we can only think that another round of maternal clawing awaits.
The tone of "Meet the Patels" is funny and exuberant with an abundance of carbonation. But it also has a palpable sense of claustrophobia within a family web.
Along with a mother's light bemusement is an iron hand of judgment, just as quick to give withering cuts to her son, as dispense Cupid's arrow.
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org