Movie Review: Arranged marriage? Get through that first Pandemic date, which lasts “7 Days”

As exercises, it has been incredibly tempting for filmmakers to figure out movies they could make while locked-down, “shelter-in-place” and what-not during the global pandemic. The limitations in cast and restrictions in locations narrowed the range of stories that can be told and how. But there have been some minor marvels that came out of this process.

“7 Days” is an intimate, understated gem, a sort of pandemic “Big Sick.” And its 85 minutes take its two leads, and those of us watching it, on a journey from brittle to loggerheads and into something almost profound in its deeply romantic Big Message.

It’s about characters who can be tactless, mean, dishonest and judgmental and who are colorfully portrayed by “Deadpool’s” favorite cabbie, Karan Soni, and by “Bad Education” and “Blockers” alumna Geraldine Viswanathan.

The script, co-written by Soni, introduces the outside world to the online era in arranged Indian marriages. The sites shown here are aimed at mothers who want to marry off their sons and daughters, and who compile — often on their own — the “profiles” that advertise their offspring’s virtues and attributes.

That’s how Ravi “meets” Rita. He’s a university lab researcher who stops by on a business trip and takes Rita for a romantic picnic by a lake he found online. The lake is dried up, and their misconnection seems just as arid.

Being another in a long line of “on the spectrum” comically-fictional science nerds, Ravi is methodical in his approach, keeping a spreadsheet of his dates, the “follow-ups” and rejections, plunging ever onward with his mother co-conspiring and looking over his shoulder the whole while.

He’s a vegetarian non-drinker looking for a “traditional” bride. That might be Rita, who bills herself as pescatarian, a teetotaler and “old fashioned.” She barely flinches when he mentions how many children he wants and that they’d live with his mother.

But on that first date, in March, we see the masks. The scientist in him runs through the math of what this new virus holds.

They prattle a bit, and when they find out his train’s been canceled, walk back to her place, chattering to their respective mothers within earshot of each other.

“No, he doesn’t seem gay.”

When his rental car falls through and the hotels all close, she reluctantly invites him to sleep on her sofa. He instantly figures out that somebody drinks beer in this rental house, and somebody never cleans it. There’s fried chicken in the fridge. Somebody is overheard talking dirty to somebody else over the phone.

And let’s not get into all the items he stumbles over in her bathroom. Could Rita be a complete fraud?

She jokes about “the longest first date ever” in the AM, and he’s too-quick to admit “It WAS.”

Well, “Keep in touch.” “NO.” And he’s no sooner admitted that no, he doesn’t think she’s his wife when events conspire to lock them down together, getting on each other’s nerves, analyzing one another and removing any doubt how little “the real me” has in common with the real Ravi.

The real Ravi, by the way, continues meeting other prospective mates in Zoom calls as he and Rita self-isolate.

Indian arranged marriages in the West have been a source for more than a few comedies, even invading the realm of sitcoms (“The Big Bang Theory,” “The Simpsons”), so “7 Days” has to find new ways to cover familiar ground. The film is wrapped with interviews of real-life arranged marriage success stories, but the movie itself makes those who submit to this seem infantile, willingly submitting to controlling parents.

The trouble with most “pandemic” comedies and romances is they get lost in the details we all remember too well. “7 Days” finds that sweet spot, bringing plenty of the odd and oddly funny paranoia, and just enough of the legitimate, lethal terror of a disease that ripped through communities, families and circles of friends, touching almost everyone.

The complications in each character’s lives are funny, wholly believable and just nasty enough to rule out any second date as this never-ending first one staggers on and on, towards an ending we may see coming, but not without a few serious twists to navigate along the way.

Rating: unrated, adult situations, profanity

Cast: Geraldine Viswanathan, Karan Soni

Credits: Directed by Roshan Sethi, scripted by Roshan Sethi and Karan Soni. A Cinedigm release.

Running time:1:25

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.