The Wedding Guest, 2019. Written and Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Starring Dev Patel, Radhika Apte, Jim Sarbh, Harish Khanna, Nish Nathwani, and Meherbaan Singh.
Starring Dev Patel, Radhika Apte, Jim Sarbh, Harish Khanna, Nish Nathwani, and Meherbaan SinghSYNOPSIS:Jay is a man with a secret who travels from Britain to Pakistan to attend a wedding—armed with duct tape, a shotgun, and a plan to kidnap the bride-to-be. Jay and his hostage end up on the run across the border and through the railway stations, back alleys, and black markets of New Delhi.
The Wedding Guest feels like its about to break into a cheesy action movie from the 90s at any moment, instead, choosing to stick with poorly attempting to flesh out its characters. Written and directed by Michael Winterbottom, the script cant get a grasp on what motivates any of these characters, why the leads that have no chemistry together are becoming more and more romantically interested with one another, or how to provide thrills.
Things go nowhere for so long that at some point you practically begin begging for generic villains to show up for a random shootout just for some entertainment; unfortunately, that never happens.Dev Patel plays Jay, skilled in espionage and recruited to kidnap Samira (Radhika Apte), the arranged bride-to-be of a wealthy Pakistani man.
The opening sequence, which is an extended 15-minute series of stealthy actions as Jay travels from London to Lahore, is insistent on showing that he is good at this, and perhaps even deadly. Maybe Michael Winterbottom really just wants to drive home early on that this is a different kind of Dev Patel.
However, its not long before such indulgences grow tiring; its one of many misdirections that never pan out (does anyone interested in this movie or reading this review actually believe the protagonist has no good reason for stealing away this woman).One would assume that with the basic plot finally firmly established that the proceedings would begin to pick up, but unless your idea of picking up is Michael Winterbottom globetrotting around India and capturing numerous beautiful vantage points of Indian architecture overlooking top floor hotels, close-up shots of delicious -looking cuisines, empty roads, peaceful exotic islands, and basically anything else that makes you second-guess if youre watching another entry in his Trip franchise (vacation movies where Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon check out various cultures), you will be sorely disappointed.
These appealing images are usually accompanied by more important segments of characters trying to be discreet, which is apparently supposed to make up for plot development.Anyway, it turns out that Jay was hired by Samiras actual lover (and for boatloads of money) to enact the kidnapping so they can run off together and live happily, albeit forever on the run (its made abundantly clear that this arranged family is never going to stop looking for her, but the extent of how dangerous they can be is never really elaborated on).The kidnapping itself goes about as well as it can, but not without one complication that throws off the inevitable exchange and future plans, and with all that looming uncertainty Jay and Samira slowly become attached to one another. Or rather, she starts giving him desirable looks and frequently inches closer to him in bed (this happens so many times that you would be forgiven for internally screaming just get it on already.
And that brings things back to my original point; The Wedding Guest has the initial premise of some random Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick where he saves the damsel in distress, bangs the girl, kills all the bad guys, and saves the day with over-the-top machismo, but it thinks its smarter and more layered than it actually is. Sure, there is much mystery to Jay (we have no idea what his real name even is, no details on his job description, and barely a hint at anything regarding his life leading up to this predicament) and Samiras situation is wisely complicated by the culture around her, but theres no reason to believe for a second that these people actually care about one another (they are supposed to).
And its not the fault of the actors considering that Radhika Apte and Jim Sarbh achieve their intended awkward chemistry (it seems like he may even be an abusive boyfriend which would be a compelling juxtaposition to the unhappiness of arranged marriage, except the film never does anything with it). The Wedding Guest is a thinly sketched portrait of two seemingly complex individuals falling in love that comes across as a cliché blown out of proportion rather than anything substantial.
For what its worth, Dev Patel does a serviceable job with facial expressions and delivering a nuanced performance; this is unlike anything hes ever done and its easy to see why he might have been eager to jump aboard this project. Hes just let down by a script that has no idea how to properly invest us into any of these characters.
Even the few deaths that do occur on screen (the disposing of a body is fairly graphic) carries little weight, so its not like the film is avoiding action to elevate drama when a character does die. The Wedding Guest doesnt even do a good job of making audiences question Samiras intentions.