By Ananya Vinay
Rom-coms featuring the fake-dating premise are not uncommon. They come with obvious clichés and well-trodden paths. The best ones add novelty, with complex characters and unexpected twists. The latest Netflix series ‘Wedding Season,’ directed by Tom Dey, truly tries its best to break new ground but doesn’t quite succeed. This particular flick features Asha, Ravi, and their families as they explore the ins and outs of Indian marriages. The aptly named Wedding Season’s take on fake-dating opts to use the excuse of avoiding the pressures of an arranged marriage during the Indian wedding season.
Asha and Ravi attend wedding after wedding together while taking the fake relationship course. They start with trying to get their families off their backs, meeting through the intricate system of matchmaking. The first meeting does not go as intended, but they find a use for each other anyway. Asha is an idealist young banker trying to start a program for microfinance. Ravi went to MIT at 16, though his actual career is a revelation that slowly peeled back. The tried and true plot would not be nearly as effective without these compelling stories. Even when we know what’s going to happen, it’s irresistible to watch them find their happy ending. Ravi’s kind eyes and Asha’s endearing stubbornness complement each other well.
However, the aspect of the story that is far more engaging is understanding the parents’ perspective. Ravi’s parents often allude to some failure in his past while Asha’s family is planning her sister’s wedding to a white man, Nick. The cultural collisions of different ideas of marriage are especially poignant. It’s easy to bash arranged marriages, but this movie manages to gently and carefully evaluate both perspectives, finding well-considered unity. Nick’s efforts to fit in with his new family are absolutely hilarious and touching at the same time. It’s no easy feat, but no one is demonized, rather given a chance to speak from their viewpoint. Another valuable reflection is that of academic expectations. Ravi’s unusual career choice sparks a discussion of changing roles in a family. They acknowledge that making the best of one’s choices is a hallmark of adulthood.
Another valuable motif is remembering one’s heritage. The first time Asha gives her presentation for the microloan program, she sticks to the facts. In the process of assimilation, we often forget the stories that brought us to where we are today. More than anything, this film depicts Asha finding and honoring her story. She truly comes into her own in ‘Wedding Season’, and the ending will make even the most reticent soul tear up just a little.
Regardless of the social insight in the movie, it is undeniably full of tropes. For movie psychics, it might take a lot of willpower to resist fast-forwarding a few minutes every so often. The compelling character arcs of ‘Wedding Season’ make it slightly better than mediocre, a good one-time watch, but nothing more. ‘Wedding Season’ absolutely tries, and for that effort, it’s worth the watch. Asha and Ravi’s exploration of the meaning of family and marriage are intricate and subtle and keep us engaged in discovering their secrets. But though the characters are good, the vows in ‘Wedding Season’ fail to surprise a watchful audience.