The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THE WEDDING GUEST | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - THE WEDDING GUEST

the wedding guest review
A mysterious British man travels to Pakistan to abduct a young woman.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Dev Patel, Radhika Apte, Jim Sarbh, Nish Nathwani

the wedding guest poster

Like a British Steven Soderbergh, director Michael Winterbottom has enjoyed a prolific career, churning out movies across multiple genres. In recent years the relatively straightforward storytelling of early works like Jude, Wonderland and 24 Hour Party People has been largely set aside as Winterbottom concentrates on blurring the lines between truth and fiction, and he's now arguably best known for his work on the ongoing The Trip franchise, in which Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictional versions of themselves enjoying the culinary delights of exotic European locales. The Wedding Guest sees Winterbottom make a return to the world of straightforward narrative filmmaking, but like so much of his work, it's a film that promises much but ultimately, frustratingly fails to deliver.

the wedding guest review

Cast against type, Dev Patel plays Jay, a brooding, quiet British mercenary who travels to a remote village in Pakistan, where he claims to be attending an upcoming wedding. In truth he's there to abduct the bride-to-be, Samira (Radhika Apte), a young British Muslim set to be wed against her will in an arranged marriage. Jay has been hired by Samira's lover, Deepesh (Jim Sarbh), to fake a kidnapping and unite the pair across the border in India. When Jay is forced to shoot a security guard, resulting in the man's death, things become more complicated than originally intended.

There has been much talk in recent times regarding the possibility of casting a minority actor in the role of James Bond. The names put forward have generally been those of black actors, but in the role of the silent but deadly Jay, Patel makes a convincing argument for a South Asian 007. Like so many actors of Asian descent, Patel has been largely typecast in affable, geeky roles, so to see him play a trained killer (who isn't a terrorist!) in such persuasive fashion is refreshing.

the wedding guest review

Patel's enigmatic presence keeps you engaged for a large chunk of Winterbottom's film, as the details of the plot are teased out. Once all the pieces have fallen into place however, it all feels a little too familiar. The Wedding Guest may play out under the baking heat of the South Asian sun, but it's very much a classic film noir narrative. Anyone vaguely familiar with the tropes of that sub-genre will see its twists arriving well ahead of its protagonist, who really should know better, given his profession.

All the good work done by Patel in the movie's ambiguous opening half crumbles in the back end when Jay begins to behave in a manner that simply doesn't gel with the clinically brutal figure we were introduced to. It doesn't help that after his murder of the innocent security guard, Jay becomes impossible to sympathise with. And the more we learn of Samira, the less we can empathise with her particular plight. What we're left with are two initially intriguing characters who transform into unappealing genre stereotypes, the femme fatale and her male patsy.

the wedding guest review

Perhaps a filmmaker from a cultural background closer to the milieu represented here might have delivered an exploration of the dynamic between South Asians and their British diaspora, but Winterbottom seems interested in this aspect merely as set dressing.

The Wedding Guest is in UK cinemas now.

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