Speaking as someone who prefers to spend the majority of her time “living” in fantasy worlds, Meet the Patels – a documentary about 30-year-old actor Ravi Patel’s nationwide quest to find a wife through dates arranged by his parents, family members, dating websites, and Indian marriage conventions – certainly didn’t seem like my usual cinematic fare. However, after watching the hilarious trailer and getting the opportunity to attend an LA screening hosted by Teen Wolf‘s Holland Roden and Max Carver – who have a personal connection to the film through Holland’s friend Mahaley – I couldn’t wait to Meet the Patels.
From the opening voiceover (with simple, but effective animation that is threaded throughout the film), I was hooked. Though it’s easy to imagine the elevator pitch for this movie being reduced to “a documentary about arranged marriage,” Meet the Patels is so much more than that. The collaboration between brother-sister duo Ravi V. Patel and Geeta V. Patel is part home movie, part romantic comedy, and it’s crafted with humor, love, and universal family values.
Why should you see Meet the Patels? Here are five things we loved about it:
1. It’s hilarious.
Like, really hilarious. Ravi is a natural storyteller – engaging, self-deprecating, and totally on-point. Take, for example, this moment from the beginning of the film: “You know that girl in ‘Eat, Pray, Love?'” Ravi asks. “She goes through a breakup, goes on the existential journey to India to get over depression, finds what she really wanted in life. I was that girl. Except my family was with me the entire time.” You’re already on-board, right?
The undone, home video character of the film also adds to its humor and charm. During the Q&A, Geeta spoke about how the beginning of the movie uses yellow arrows to call out the fact that the framing is… interesting, and that boom mics can be seen in the upper corners on more than a few occasions. By owning these imperfections, Meet the Patels gets a laugh and instantly becomes more relatable, like you’re watching one of your own family’s home videos.
2. Ravi and Geeta’s parents are the real stars.
Though Meet the Patels centers on Ravi’s quest for marriage, it’s ultimately a family affair – and Ravi and Geeta’s parents are the unexpected stars. Despite having only met for 10 minutes before they were engaged, Champa and Vasant have been happily married for 35 years. Champa is even known for her success as a matchmaker in her community. The two are eager to help Ravi find a suitable girl to marry, and they enthusiastically dive into the process. But they are also full of humor, charm, and heartwarming support for their kids. Somebody get these two an agent, pronto.
3. It’s surprisingly relatable.
If you think you can’t relate to a movie about arranged marriage, you may be surprised by Meet the Patels. Though some of the processes employed by Ravi and his family over the course of the film were unfamiliar to me – such as bio data, which involves the families of eligible parties exchanging detailed “dating resumes” of sorts and then arranging dates via phone – in theory, they aren’t so different from dating apps such as Tinder that are more mainstream. Ravi also uses dating websites (both specific to the Indian culture and your usual e-Harmony fare). Though the dating process may be a little different, who can’t relate to loneliness and the struggle of finding love?
4. The animated moments add a unique storytelling twist.
The animation seen in the trailer carries through the film, weaving Ravi’s story together and maintaining that relatable, undone quality. But while I was intrigued by the animation while watching Meet the Patels, I had a whole new level of appreciation for it after the Q&A.
Geeta said that she and Ravi were concerned about sticking a camera in their family members’ faces during their most vulnerable, emotional moments – almost to the point of abandoning the project. They tried so many ways to get around it – even Seinfeld-style standup comedy – but nothing was working. Then, while driving around town one day, they were listening to the radio – and inspiration struck. Radio programs can convey such rich stories and vivid imagery with no visuals whatsoever, so the insensitive/intrusive filming of those vulnerable moments could be avoided. Ravi and Geeta worked for a long time to hone the over-arcing story, telling it to each other over and over again in order to whittle it down to its best possible form and even consulting with This American Life‘s Ira Glass, before turning things over to animators (they went through several before Jim Richardson ultimately took over). The end result is an interesting narrative device that does effectively tie together the loose ends and enhance the tone of the film.
5. It’s truly a family affair.
As we mentioned, the Patel family is at the heart of this film. But that isn’t limited to Ravi, Geeta, Champa, and Vasant. Meet the Patels also delves into the rich culture of extended family – not only aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, but also local communities in India and the many Patels across both that country and our own.
On a smaller scale, Meet the Patels does such a great job of honoring family ideals we can all relate (or at least aspire) to. As Geeta noted in the Q&A, there are so many movies nowadays about revenge or dragging each other down. Though the Patels have their moments of misunderstanding, they ultimately learn to communicate better through the process of trying to find Ravi a bride – and they support each other no matter what.
Meet the Patels was a fun, heartwarming film that had me laughing from start to finish. I had an amazing time attending the screening with Bren and Katrina of BGeeky Blog, and I would highly encourage you to see the movie if it is showing near you! It was also lovely to chat with Max and Holland about their awesome support for the movie, and Teen Wolf fans – they would love nothing more than for you to see it and support their friends.
Find out more about Meet the Patels and how to buy tickets at MeetThePatelsFilm.com.
For those who were unable to attend the Q&A, it will be available soon via the Landmark Theatres Film Club Q&A Podcast.