What the world doesn’t need right now is another formulaic romantic comedy.
But while “When Harry Tries to Marry,” available via Video on Demand, luxuriates in the genre’s trappings it offers just enough sizzle to set it apart.
How many times have we seen Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson lob colored clumps of dust on their beaus as we see in one buoyant “Marry” scene? The film’s cultural flourishes elevate a film which can be a tad rough around the edges.
And both Heigl and Hudson should fear the rom-com charms of “Marry’s” star Stefanie Estes. She’s may quickly graduate from indie fare to the mainstream.
“Marry,” which just won the Best Feature Film (Comedy) award at The Jersey Shore Film Festival, stars Rahul Rai as an Indian-American named Harry with marriage on his mind. He’s about to graduate college and thinks the next logical step is getting hitched. He could find love the western way like his parents did, but their acrimonious divorce made him realize arranged marriages make more sense.
His pushy mother is not pleased by his decision and tells him it’s just a phase that will soon pass.
“Wetting my bed was a phase, this is not a phase,” he tells her.
Besides, in Indian culture Harry’s age – he’s 22 – could be a problem.
“You’re no spring chicken,” a relative cautions him.
So his family sets him up with Nita (Freishia Bomanbehram), a perfectly suitable life mate from a powerful Indian family. She’s beautiful, kind and shares many of Harry’s interests. As arranged marriages go, one could do far worse.
But Harry’s roommate introduces him to Theresa (Estes), a photographer who admires Harry’s gentle spirit. The two start spending time with each other as Harry prepares for his big, fat Indian wedding. The bond over their respective squabbling parents and end up spending many afternoons together. Suddenly, the notion of finding love on his own doesn’t sound so bad.
“Marry” would be another in a long line of gimmick-laden romances if arranged marriages were a fictional construct. As is, the high “success” rate of these unions gives the film an edge. Numbers don’t lie, even if the concept seems utterly foreign to American audiences.
“When Harry Tries to Marry” suffers at times from its micro-indie roots. Director/co-writer Nayan Padrai writes some juicy supporting roles, but some of the actors tasked with bringing them to life can’t do them justice. But the film’s modest roots can’t be seen in the sharp production values or New York City settings. No, the film isn’t as lush as a Hollywood production, but it’s an eye pleaser with a gorgeous final reel.
Had “Marry” been made by a major studio Nita would be a shrew Harry would be wise to avoid. Even Woody Allen fell into that trap with Rachel McAdam’s role in the summer sleeper “Midnight in Paris.” Intead, Nita is both sweet and pragmatic, which gives the film’s love triangle a boost.
Some of the comic set pieces feel strained, like a sequence where Harry must camouflage his aroused state during a platonic sleep over. The can often feel canned, but as the film nears its conclusion the conversations begin revealing fresh insights on love and marriage.
Rai and Estes share an unshakeable chemistry, and Padrai doesn’t treat Harry’s sexual naivety as something to pity. It’s a welcome twist to a genre that often plays virgins for fools.
“When Harry Tries to Marry” can’t boast the lacquered beauty of the modern rom-com. We’re forced to settle for a story with heart and an epilogue that adds some reality to a genre in dire need of it.
(Photo: Rahul Rai and Freishia Bomanbehram star in the sweet indie rom-com “When Harry Tries to Marry.”)