Meet the Patels

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Meet the Patels Movie Poster Image
Indian culture explored in romcom/documentary blend.
  • PG
  • 2014
  • 88 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Explores the search for a lifetime partner in marriage, and compares and contrasts the traditional Indian approach to marriage (and how that has evolved in recent years) with contemporary American marriage. 

Positive Role Models

While often exasperated and at odds with his parents and their adherence to traditional Indian customs, Ravi ultimately celebrates Indian culture. The movie provides non-Indian viewers a unique perspective and opportunity for understanding. 

Violence
Sex

Documentary uses one of the racier scenes from Dirty Dancing between Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey to make a point. 

Language

Upon discovering that he has received a parking ticket, Ravi almost says "f--k," but stops himself halfway. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine drinking. Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Meet the Patels is a 2014 documentary in which an Indian-American actor on the verge of turning 30 receives help from his parents and extended family in finding a wife. The movie explores Indian culture, how traditional "arranged marriages" are practiced today, and how such arrangements contrast with American approaches to dating, romance, and the search for a life partner. While Ravi is often shown frustrated and exasperated with his parents, his extended family, and how traditional Indian culture clashes with his American upbringing, the documentary ultimately shows a love and appreciation for Indian culture and tradition. Wine drinking in some scenes, incidental cigarette smoking. One of the racier scenes in Dirty Dancing is used to contrast American and Indian depictions of sexuality in media. Ravi almost says "f--k" upon receiving a parking ticket. 

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What's the story?

In MEET THE PATELS, Ravi Patel is an actor living in Los Angeles who has just broken up with his longtime girlfriend Audrey. This couldn't happen at a worse time, because Ravi is visiting India with his family, where his parents and extended family find it almost incomprehensible that, as a man about to turn 30, he isn't married. His family, and the extended family of Patels all over India and North America, want to help Ravi by finding the perfect life partner for him by a traditional arranged Indian marriage. This search sends Ravi on a journey to find a wife, a journey that will take him to many different cities and dates with dozens of women, arranged by his parents with the help of "bio-data" sheets family members use in order to ascertain compatability between Ravi and single Indian women. As one date after the next doesn't feel quite right, Ravi begins to pine once more for Audrey, even as his parents continue to clamor for him to settle down. As Ravi balances between two cultures, he must decide what, and who, is best for him. 

Is it any good?

Meet the Patels is a unique and often funny documentary exploring one man's search for love as he straddles two cultures with two very different approaches to finding the perfect life partner. What especially works about it is that, no matter how exasperated family members become with each other, it's all done out of a sense of love and a desire for happiness. While it more or less follows the structure of a fictional romcom, it's the only romcom where the matchmaking is replaced by the possibility of an arranged marriage. The arguments in favor of arranged marriages as made by Ravi's elders come through in a way that makes sense to non-Indian viewers.

Where Meet the Patels falls short is that it becomes redundant after a while. After yet another lecture from the parents about how Ravi needs to get married, it's hard not to scream, "OK, we get it!" at the screen. It's also worth noting that the "happily ever after" ending isn't quite what ended up happening in real life, and while the actual ending seems as "happily ever after" as the movie ending, it demands, at the very least, a "Where Are They Now?" epilogue. The different endings reveal the problem in adhering too closely to a "romcom" plot structure when dealing with reality.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the lines between truth and story in documentary films. Meet the Patels ends a certain way, but an internet search reveals that what actually happened isn't exactly the "happily ever after" ending shown in the movie. Does reality interfere with the documentary's overall message? Should more recent releases of the documentary reflect what happened in the years since the movie was made, or should it be left alone simply document a specific time and place? 

  • Does the blend of documentary and romcom work? Why or why not?

  • What are some other examples of romcoms centered on a specific ethnicity or culture? How do the unique qualities of Indian culture as revealed in Meet the Patels call to mind those movies? 

Movie details

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