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"Monsoon Wedding"

Directed by Mira Nair ("Mississippi Masala").
Written by Sabrina Dhawan. 
Starring Naseeruddin Shah, Lillette Dubay and Vijay Raaz.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  3/25/02 


So, after catching back-to-back bloody sci-fi action films, I figured

"Damn, you know what I need to see?  A Indian combination of 'Soul Food' and 'Father of the Bride' to ease the palette!"

In an amazing stroke of luck, "Monsoon Wedding" just opened up here in San Francisco!  Can you believe it?

Maybe you can't, but you can believe this:  "Monsoon Wedding" is the best 2002 release I've seen this year.  In Delhi, an arranged marriage between two seemingly mismatched people is about to take place over a four-day weekend.  All manner of family members from the two factions are in town for the event; in no particular order, sex-crazed teens, ugly ducklings, "that" uncle on your dad's side, the overbearing father, the doting get the idea.  An adopted member of the bride's family has something brewing that comes out in Act III, but in the meantime, you've got plenty of subplots to sit back and enjoy.

And, that is the great part of any ensemble picture like this--try not to keep up with everything going on so much as just enjoying the scenes that are currently being played out in front of you.  This worked masterfully in "Gosford Park", and it works just as well here, as director Mira Nair weaves a dozen people throughout the four days leading up to the wedding day.  A film that is very funny early on and turns into a great drama later, "Monsoon Wedding" kept my attention throughout, which I didn't think it was going to do.  Nair draws you in by combining familiar elements to wedding films (parents saddened by the loss of "their little girl", cute kids, wedding planners taking care of those last-minute arrangements) with lots of affluent Indian culture.  Affluence is key here, because it allows Nair to have her intelligent characters speak mostly English throughout the film; otherwise, I think I would have been a bit more bored reading subtitles, the number one recipe for sleeping in a theater.  Also, it allows for more traditional song scenes and dance sequences, which make the film lively in its final act.

I loved the characters and in this kind of environment, where the story isn't too original, that was key for me.  When it all comes to an end, you kind of wish that you could be a part of their lives for just a little bit longer.  The best character of them all?  That's easy--the wedding planner, PK Dubey (Vijay Raaz).  Why?  You know, the guy is ugly as all get-outówith a messed-up grill and a gangly middle-aged frame, he wouldn't be confused with Brad Pitt any time soon.  But, you just love him from the start, with his goofy smile and clumsy behavior around the house maid Alice (Tilotama Shome), you root for PK every time he is on-screen.  He'll never get nominated, but this is what you wish for in an Oscar-worthy supporting performance--he's a scene-stealer every time he appears, and he lives a lasting impression with you long after the film is over.

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09