Meet the Patels

Posted on September 18, 2015 at 11:41 am

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for thematic elements, brief suggestive images and incidental smoking
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking, brief smoking
Violence/ Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: September 18, 2015

The best documentaries — and the best movies and the best stories — are fascinatingly specific but universal as well. When actor/comedian Ravi Patel agreed to let his parents, Vasant and Champa, try to find him a wife according to the established traditions of their Gujarati Indian culture, he and his sister Geeta decided to make a movie about the process. While the details of how it works are fascinating and often hilarious, the joy of the film is how universal it is. We have all had parents try to push us according to their own ideas of what will make us happy. Maybe we do not get “biodata” marriageability information sheets on all of the prospects, specifying that caste and horoscope must be compatible and disclosing skin shade, but pretty much everyone has had calls from relatives who want to put us in touch with a wonderful girl/boy they don’t really know but their neighbor/podiatrist/brother-in-law assures them that the possible romantic partner in question has a great personality. Geeta, a documentary filmmaker, picks up a camera and follows Ravi through a series of remarkable encounters, from speed dating to a specialized version of OK Cupid to a Patel marriage convention. It is pretty clear which girl he is going to end up with, but that in no way impairs the fun of the film.

In part that is because the real stars of the show are the Patel parents, who are irresistibly adorable. As Ravi points out, they met through the traditional system, as did most of his relatives, and they are the happiest married couple he knows. It is clear that the Western system of romance, dating, and marriage is far from perfect, so why not try the time-tested system that worked so well for his parents? He is so broken-hearted after the end of his most serious relationship, with a girl who is not Indian, he thinks he might as well go along.

And we have a lot of fun going along with him. Ravi is a natural on screen, self-deprecating and very sincere in his search for love, his affection for his culture, his love for his family, and the struggle he has, like all children of immigrants, to find his identity somewhere between the old country and the new.

Parents should know that this movie has some family drama, and some smoking and drinking.

Family discussion: How did the couples in your family meet? What is the best way to find someone to love?

If you like this, try: “Sherman’s March” and “Bride and Prejudice”

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Comedy Documentary Family Issues Movies -- format Romance
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