6 December 2005 | noralee
Irresistible Combination of Realism and Good Spirits
It's only March, but I already nominate "Monsoon Wedding" as one of the best movies of the year.
Yeah, we've seen ethnic weddings/family gatherings before ("Lovers and Other Strangers," "Wedding Banquet," "The Godfather," "Avalon," "What's Cooking," "Tortilla Soup," among others), but this is still an original.
Not just because it takes place in India, not just because the characters come in from the Indian diaspora of IT jobs in the U.S., Australia, and the Middle East to the old homestead, and switch between Hindi and English mid-sentence, and switch comfortably between tradition and modernity.
But because these are completely wholly-formed, original characters and a sophisticated story. Yeah I was confused sometimes about who's related to whom, but from the rebellious teen-age boy dreaming of being a chef, to the bride with a secret lover, to the Houston engineer come home for an arranged marriage, to the complicated intra-family obligations and past positive and negative interactions, to cousins, aunts and uncles who genuinely love each other -- all are fully realized and completely believable, being both very individual and very universal.
Only a smidgen of a coincidence in the last moments of a too neat happy ending for a very sympathetic character mars the story, but understandably the audience cheers at the end.
A bonus is the wonderful use of Indian music -- I have zero idea if it's folk or Bollywood music they're singing but the soundtrack is exotic and exuberant as the characters use it to liberate thoughts and feelings within the structure of wedding rituals, with dancing as well. Stay through the credits as the ritual continues.
I'm ready to go see it again any time I'm feeling down.
(originally written 3/11/2002)