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Movie review: Old and new collide in ‘Meet the Patels’

A family selfie from “Meet the Patels,” featuring, clockwise from left, Ravi, Champa, Vasant and Geeta. (The rest of her is very nice, too. Just ask her mother.)
A family selfie from “Meet the Patels,” featuring, clockwise from left, Ravi, Champa, Vasant and Geeta. (The rest of her is very nice, too. Just ask her mother.) Courtesy

The modern age of contemporary dating comes up hard against the ages-old tradition of arranged marriages in “Meet the Patels,” an often uproariously comedic and ultimately poignant documentary about one man’s quest to meet The One.

The man in question is nearly 30 Ravi Patel, an Indian American comic-actor who, along with his sister/co-director Geeta, decides to film his efforts. Fresh from breaking up with his white American girlfriend, he decides he wants someone who shares his culture. He hits online dating sites aimed at Indian Americans and a convention only for people named Patel, though he mostly lets his fretful parents — who are frantic to find mates for both Ravi and Geeta — look for someone. After years of dismissing arranged relationships, Ravi decides he might as well give it a try.

The amount of time, energy and money the elder Patels spend in this pursuit — flying Ravi from Los Angeles to Dallas to Florida to Toronto for dates — is dizzying. And that’s not even including the elaborate, computerized system of “biodata” (physical characteristics, profession, education, family background, etc.) the parents have on each of their choices. Forget the NSA, it’s the Patels who have everyone’s information.

While the parents may at first seem authoritarian and rigid — their marriage was arranged after a brief, 10-minute meeting — their humanity and warmth are allowed to shine through in “Meet the Patels.” They quickly move from demanding to endearing.

Through it all, “Meet the Patels” ends up being much more than a movie about a guy going out on dates. It’s about shifting identities, parental expectations and trying to hold on to a life raft of tradition in a swirling sea of change.

And it’s pretty funny, too.

MEET THE PATELS

out of 5

Cast: Geeta Patel, Ravi Patel, Champa Patel, Vasant Patel

Directors: Geeta Patel, Ravi Patel.

Running time: 88 minutes.

Rated: PG for thematic elements, brief suggestive images and incidental smoking.

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