I can think of worse ways to fritter away an hour and a half than a guided tour of India and Pakistan conducted by Dev Patel. But for the same amount of time rooted to a seat in a movie theater, I expect more than the 94-minute bore called The Wedding Guest. Written and directed by England’s jarringly uneven (i.e., mostly incompetent) Michael Winterbottom, this anemic little so-called thriller is the next best thing to a prescription for 30 mg Dalmane.
Patel plays Jay, a mysterious man with alternate identities who travels from the U.K. to Pakistan to kidnap a bride named Samira (Radhika Apte) on her wedding day so she can rejoin her wealthy Indian lover Deepesh (Jim Sarbh). He breaks into the house where she is staying, informing her that she can either go through with her arranged marriage or spend the rest of her days on the lam with him.
THE WEDDING GUEST ★
Much misery and gunfire ensues, staged on trains, in cars and in restaurants, and meandering through beach resorts, while the viewer waits for something to unfold that resembles a plot. Somewhere in the unfocused, disorganized fracas, for reasons only Winterbottom can fathom, the two vagabonds fall in love without a trace of charisma or logic. Don’t expect it to add up to anything more substantial. There is no big finale. The film just fades to black.
I really like Dev Patel. Since his big wide-eyed, career-making splash in Slumdog Millionaire, he’s grown from a callow, self-conscious youth to a mature actor of grace and polish in films as varied and satisfying as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Lion. To see him at his best, catch his other new movie, the breathlessly exciting Hotel Mumbai.
In The Wedding Guest, Patel moves around a lot, from Lahore to Amritsar to Delhi to Jaipur and Goa. But nothing ever happens, and the two leads have the chemistry of olive oil and water. India, observes Patel, is the perfect place to get lost in. Before this movie mercifully drags to a close, you’ll wish you could get lost yourself.