“Wedding Season” recap: Two singles fake their own love story

When a rom-com clicks, it usually means they’re firing on both cylinders: romance and comedy. The sparks fly, the jokes tickle, the situations swirl. But then there’s that kind of comfort-food rom-com-of-the-week like Wedding Season. It features a pair of extremely appealing actors, Pallavi Sharda and Suraj Sharma, in the story of two sexy assimilated Jersey City Indian Americans who will do whatever it takes to escape the inheritance of their parents’ arranged marriage.

The movie has jokes, like the prickly insults the two exchange when they meet at a diner for cheeseburgers and sloppy fries after learning their people signed them up on the same dating app. It has twists and turns, like when they find out they don’t like each other but agree to start a fake relationship so the local yentas will stop bothering them. It has twists, like when you recognize them do like each other so now they fake the fake It has mystery and deception, along with a generic semblance of the spinning top vibe that a movie like this aspires to.

Okay, but is any of this actually, you know funny? “Wedding Season” is good for a few smiles, a pinch of CTM moments and so on. But it’s not like the film has Ben Hecht nodding in gleeful approval from screwball heaven. It is a processed confection that has come off the flowing assembly line. But if the comedy here is mostly routine, the romance is another matter. It really works because the actors don’t just invoke the love story — they dance with it, commit to it, and own it.

The biggest difference between a romantic comedy you’ll be watching on Netflix and the kind of rom-coms that have been playing in theaters since the early ’90s (although there are few of them a year now) is that the theatrical version is almost always built around brand stars, while the streaming version often features little-known actors who are on the rise (or maybe not). That can make these films seem like a pale imitation of reality – the rom-com for fan fodder, minus the glitter of the marquees. But there’s a weird way it can give a little something like “Wedding Season” some edge. We’re meant to believe that the characters in a romantic comedy are real people, and in the big-screen synthetic rom-coms that used to star Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon and Owen Wilson, the movie star factor was always there floating. No harm there; that’s what movies are, of course.

But when I saw “Wedding Season,” I bought a little more than in a Jennifer Lopez or Kate Hudson movie that Pallavi Sharda’s Asha is actually a conflicted turn-of-the-century party girl who quit her job at a Wall Street bank now works at a microfinance investment firm trying to give women in Southeast Asia opportunities to start their own businesses. I bought, a little more than in a Hugh Grant or Josh Lucas film, that Suraj Sharma’s Ravi, a high achiever who joined MIT at 16 and now shines with entry fees, is too good to be true.

And I enjoyed how direct and engaging these actors are. Sharda, who has worked in the UK and Bollywood, has a no-frills poignancy reminiscent of Annabella Sciorra, and Sharma, tall and amused, makes Ravi a chivalrous teddy bear who seems to have overcome life’s troubles – until it turns out that his whole image is a bit like a house of cards. The two characters are defiant, independent souls, which makes them perfect for each other. But the question of how they manage their parents’ control-freak marital fervor adds a little touch of suspense to the story. It’s the same theme that gave The Big Sick its sneaky hilarity and euphoria – although, let’s be clear, this film is a Ben Hecht comedy compared to this one.

But in Wedding Season, the tension between the old-world view of arranged marriage and the 21st-century do-what-you-will view resonates more than you might expect. Many of us tend to see this type of conflict as more than irrelevant. (It felt totally archaic to me when I first saw it watching Fiddler on the Roof in 1971.) But aside from staying very much alive in some Indian-American families, it works in Wedding Season” as a kind of metaphor. In this film, the prospect of an arranged marriage hovers over the plot like a god, reminding the characters that they can’t stay young forever.

The movie is called Wedding Season by the way because Asha and Ravi are going to attend more than a dozen weddings over the summer, so they decide to fake a relationship. It will give them protection from any busybodies trying to set them up. One of the people getting married is Asha’s sister Priya (Arianna Afsar), whose fiancé Nick (Sean Kleier) winds up in silly knots to go “Indian”. Some of it actually is funny, but it also has a touching undercurrent. Priya is the first person in her family to marry outside of her nationality and the film lets us feel what a leap that is. As clumsy as the parents are, Wedding Season lets us see things from their point of view. The film recognizes that marriage is always about more than two people – it’s about how the world moves forward. Wedding Season might leave you with a tear in your eye as you watch the world with grace.

https://variety.com/2022/film/reviews/wedding-season-review-1235331820/ “Wedding Season” recap: Two singles fake their own love story

Charles Jones

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