Film Review: Film Festival Hit ‘Meet the Patels’ Sheds Comedic Light on Cultural Courting

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CHICAGO the film may not make money or win mainstream attention, it could challenge traditional filmmaking without being constrained to fatigued formulas. That many scrutinizing eyes can see something special that Hollywood suits might nix.

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

Straightforwardly selling you its soul as “a real-life ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding,’” the new documentary “Meet the Patels” sucks you in with self-deprecating humor. Ravi Patel’s directorial debut offers full disclosure that it’ll look low-budget. It’ll even break the fourth wall by accidentally showing an overhead mic. Although that’s shot unintentionally and then highlighted in post, unusually it never happens again after the film’s low-expectation setup.

Indeed, its cinematography does look low-budget, blurry, shaky and certainly not HD, but it’s not trying to be a found-footage film. “Meet the Patels” cares most about its story and one character who evolves it. Ravi teaches you about a culture you may know little or nothing about and the film focuses on him with his sister manning the camera. Audiences are naturally treated to what feels like an improvisational journey into unfamiliar territory.

Though the focus isn’t on his sister, Geeta Patel co-directs the film. The siblings pull it off in a very non-Morgan Spurlock or Michael Moore-esque documentary style that’s now unique to these Patels. They’re trying to be funny and educational, and instead of going for shock and awe, they’re targeting raw honesty. Without the traditional interviews that many documentarians use, the Patels give you a reality-television feel and you feel lucky to be welcomed into their living room. Despite your culture and views on marriage, truth is a universal we can all relate to.

StarRead Adam Fendelman’s full review of “Meet the Patels”.

Along with filming and co-directing with him, Geeta also plays the role of interviewer in two-person, animated sequences primarily designed in black and white. The animations show emotions so you feel like you’re getting to know two Ravi Patels: the real-life version and the animated character. Both people are a pleasure to get to know.

What’s odd, though, is it’s clearly not as low-budget as it sets up. Despite its graininess, I don’t know of many low-budget films that can afford sweeping landscape shots that were clearly accomplished from an expensive-to-rent helicopter. Nor would they be able to afford quality animations. In interviewing the Patels, they told me the animations took about 18 months alone to pull off amid on overall 6-year timeframe. “Meet the Patels” gives you the fly-on-the-wall look, but all the while you get the sense that this family has money.

“Meet the Patels” stars Ravi Patel, Geeta Patel, Champa Patel and Vasant Patel from writers and directors Ravi and Geeta Patel. The film is also written by Matthew Hamachek (“Gideon’s Army”) and Billy McMillin (“West of Memphis”). It has a running time of 88 minutes and is rated “PG” for thematic elements, brief suggestive images and incidental smoking. “Meet the Patels” opened in Chicago on Sept. 11, 2015 at the Music Box Theatre.

StarContinue for Adam Fendelman’s full review of “Meet the Patels”.

Meet the Patels
Patel family selfie.
Image credit: Four in a Billion Pictures

StarContinue for Adam Fendelman’s full review of “Meet the Patels”.

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