Movie review by Andrea Karen Hammer
From the start of Meet the Patels, interspersed scenes with humorously self-deprecating animated characters and rough-cut home videos signal a distinctive approach to film making.
Voice-overs from Ravi Patel and his camcorder-wielding sister, Geeta, create an immediately personal effect in this story about their family assimilating to America. Although we never see the latter until the closing credits, their guidance shapes this tale about breaking from a long history of arranged marriages in their homeland of India.
Personality-Plus Parents Urge Upholding Longtime Traditions
Through their commentary, viewers directly experience Ravi Patel‘s conflict. He recently broke up with Audrey, his American girlfriend of 2 years because of an inability to commit to marriage. His personality-plus parents, Champa and Vasant, convince him to start a search back in India, urging him to uphold longtime traditions.
Conversations with his father, often held during their symbolic car rides, have hilarious undertones. Although delivered with complete seriousness, these scenes manage to poke fun at the intensity of these exchanges.
However, his mother’s pressing desire to see her son marry a woman from India takes an angry turn. In a convincing scene that some may recognize, she punishes her son with a fury-filled silent treatment. Hitting true-to-life notes, she later explains that his failure to disclose a relationship with Audrey for 2 years was actually more painful than her American background.
Quick-Take Scenes of Mishaps and Mismatches While Speed Dating in India
Ravi Patel’s ongoing search through India, with his father’s support and funding, captures the madness of speed dating across India. In quick-take scenes of mishaps and mismatches, viewers identify with the frustration of these shallow experiences. At the same time, the series of snapshots before, during and after empty encounters allows humorous moments to emerge during the seemingly endless drill.
In one of the stand-out scenes in the movie, viewers applaud when Ravi Patel poses a difficult question to his mother, sitting in the back seat of his car: Does she prefer a traditional but love-less arrangement for her son, or would she like him to be happy?
During extended silence, his mother visibly struggles with the question. Her final response, showing a mother’s true love, leads to the the final resolution.
At the end of Meet the Patels, relaxed family gatherings are a testament to the way one family learned to bridge different cultures. With humor and keen observation, the movie reveals the tension between honoring cultural traditions while acquiescing to necessary changes in today’s world.
Questions for Artsphoria’s Online Film Forum
What did you think about the use of animation and homemade-style movies in Meet the Patels? Why didn’t Ravi’s sister, Geeta, appear completely until the end of the film? Would you recommend this movie to others, and why or why not?
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