The Wedding Guest

Writer and director Michael Winterbottom‘s work has never had much impact on the world of cinema.  “A Mighty Heart,” his collaboration with Angelina Jolie, is somewhat significant in the film world; however, his latest, “The Wedding Guest,” is a far cry from that. This suspense thriller also lacks the visual appeal of Winterbottom’s work with Steve Coogan on “The Trip” trilogy. What it does have is Academy Award nominee Dev Patel, who is playing a more handsome and brooding character here than in “Lion.” Incidentally, Patel’s name is being thrown around as the next James Bond. and though “The Wedding Guest” is nowhere close to an action-packed thriller, the “Slumdog Millionaire” star continues to seek action hero roles when drama or romantic comedy is where he is more likely to shine.

Dev Patel in The Wedding Guest
Dev Patel in The Wedding Guest

Hired to abduct a woman from an arranged marriage, Jay (Dev Patel) makes a long and inconspicuous journey from the United Kingdom to Pakistan, switching rental cars, taking backroads, and carefully covering his tracks. Samira (Radhika Apte) is forced to choose between a life on the run or a marriage she didn’t choose, but when the planned abduction goes awry, and the press exposes their plan, she must rely on this stranger for help, “India is the perfect place to get lost, like a needle in a haystack.” As frightened as Samira becomes of Jay’s violent tendencies, she can’t help but find herself drawn to this quiet yet resourceful man who always has a plan.

This deliberate lack of information pushes us to invest attention in the subtly of Patel’s performance.

The first 20 minutes of the film is Patel’s character on the move, offering the audience far more questions than answers. In fact, the script isn’t interested in spelling out anything for the viewer. This deliberate lack of information pushes us to invest attention in the subtly of Patel’s performance. More often than not, though, the plot twists are more confounding than exciting. I repeat: this is not an action movie. It’s a film about circumstance rather than action and is misleading in its marketing (the poster suggests Patel taking over for Liam Neeson) and its title (there is no wedding). The score is often more powerful and suggestive than the cinematography, overwhelming the humdrum imagery in many scenes. Winterbottom can’t seem to figure out how to organize his winning parts into a compelling whole.

This isn’t the first time Patel, who rose to stardom as a teenager in the best picture-winning “Slumdog Millionaire,” has avoided the opportunity for fame as the hunky leading man. He appears shadowed and /or obscured in scene after scene of “The Wedding Guest” when changing his shirt, by the pool, at the beach setting, and eventually in the bed with a beautiful woman. It’s as if he has a clause in his contract that doesn’t allow him to have sex appeal. His previous films have done the same, but it’s more obvious here when Patel is one of the few elements this movie has going for it. It took years to shed the goofy Indian boy stereotype, but now it’s time to embrace the hidden potential underneath that facial hair and loose-fitting clothes.

Final Thought

Patel works harder to hide his sex appeal in "The Wedding Guest" than the director does to make it an enticing film.


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