A romantic comedy with “Wedding Season” as its title kind of gives away the game.
There are going to be weddings — maybe “Wedding Crashers” weddings, perhaps “27 Dresses” weddings. Since it’s rated TV-PG and more Indian than Indian American, you can guess which end of the spectrum it skews to.
There’ll be a cute couple who “meet cute” and of course meet testy, because where’s the fun if they’re “destined to be” if it’s too obvious they’re destined to be? You can’t set off sparks without a little friction, right?
But the thing about rom-coms that work isn’t just that they get you in ways you expect. They sneak up on you with a surprise turnabout, little dollops of heart that hit you like a wet slap.”Wedding Season” catches you coming and going.
It’s an Indian American diaspora comedy with the usual nagging, badgering “Why aren’t you MARRIED?” mothers, Americanized “just living my life/get off my back” offspring, with a dash of culture clash and a tiny serving of the “biggest gossip in Little India” bitchiness.
It’s just adorable.
Asha, played by Pallavi Sharda, is a 30ish economist working with an Asian microloan investment fund, a workaholic in a workplace that could not be more diverse.
But her relentless and irritating mother (Veena Sood) is hellbent on marrying her off. She’s wearing out the DesiDream dating website, a place where interfering parents can throw up idealized profiles of their Indian children so that they can attract a proper Indian mate.
Yes, it’s a tradition that smacks of patriarchal/matriarchal “control” with a hint of enthocentrism. But mother Suneeta has already got one daughter (Arianna Asfar) about to marry a whiter-than-white doctor (Sean Kleier). With Asha having having blown up her engagement to “New Jersey’s most eligible brown bachelor,” and having no interest in pursuing another, what’s a mother to do?
Somebody wrote Ravi’s (Suraj Sharma) online profile as well — “spelling bee champ” and”
MIT” and “start-up” are all Suneeta needs to see.
It takes pressure just short of threats to get Asha to meet Ravi for a date. That empty place setting at the family Sunday dinner table?
“This plate is for the husband who should be here!”
But the “nerd” profiled online turns out to be laid back, over 30 and able to give as good as he gets in the cutting banter dept. Still, she’s not interested and Ravi simply walks away.
It’s just that they travel in the same socio-ethnic circles. There are a LOT of weddings coming up. And at one of them, they hear “We promise not to give up on you until we’re sure you’re HAPPY” and married one too many times. Asha armtwists Ravi into being her fake date for the season.
“I’ll just tell them we broke up at the next wedding” becomes an arrangement, and even though she keeps bringing her work laptop to each of the 14 weddings they’re both attending, “arrangements” have a way of becoming something more romantic once the “getting to know you” gets underway.
Sharda, an Indo-Australian actress (“Lion”) sparkles and gives us a hint of (respectful) spitfire in her performance. She makes Asha’s offhanded ABCD complaint while trying to don a sari — “How do half a billion women WEAR these things?” — the film’s lightest laugh.
Sharma, of “Umrika” (STREAM that one!), affects the breezy air of someone more troubled by what Ravi knows he isn’t telling Asha than any brushoff she tosses his way.
The reluctant couple charms, and the supporting players deliver cute laughs hither and yon — the gossipy “aunties” and other older folks complaining about this or that “rascal,” the white boy brother-in-law-to-be who keeps flailing away at Indian cultural appropriation.
“Keep calm and curry on!”
It’s a slight comedy, delicate as kheer with nothing remotely weighty about it. The biggest surprise about that might be the light touch veteran director Tom Dey brings to Shiwani Srivastava’s sweet and simple script. “Wedding Season” is her first produced screenplay. And there was something about its patience, pace and just-edgy-enough sweetness that made a filmmaker 16 years removed from “Failure to Launch” remember how it’s done and how it’s done right.
Cast: Pallavi Sharda, Suraj Sharma, Veena Sood, Arianna Afsar, Rizwan Manji, Damian Thompson and Sean Kleier.
Credits: Directed by Tom Dey, scripted by Shiwani Srivastava. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:39