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Dev Patel Delivers Strong Work In “The Wedding Guest” But The Whole Package Falls Short Of The Mark

I think it’s safe to say that Dev Patel is an underrated leading man in Hollywood, that is, when he’s actually given a leading role. Those are few and far between for him. Still, when he’s allowed the chance, he shows his chops, even if the material is not up to snuff. Such is the case here with The Wedding Guest, a low-key thriller that begins with potential but slowly squanders it away. The key word here is slowly too, as everything about this film is slow. For a short movie, it feels twice as long. Throw in a terrible ending and this all adds up to a disappointment, Patel excluded.

The film is a thriller that begins as a mystery. We begin by following a mysterious British Muslim man named Jay (Patel) on his journey from Britain to Pakistan. Soon, we realize that he’s been hired to kidnap impeding bride Samira (Radhika Apte). Armed with some duct tape and a gun, he arrives at her wedding and takes her hostage, but that’s where things begin to go wrong. Forced to go on the run with her, they end up in India, both trying to get a handle on the situation. Soon, Jay realizes that all is not as it seems and even becomes a bit of a protector for Samira. Violence is inevitable, but this mainly is about how the two of them bond while waiting to see what will become of them both. Michael Winterbottom writes and directs, with supporting players including Harish Khanna, Nish Nathwani, Jim Sarbh, and Meherbaan Singh. Harry Escott composed the score, while the cinematography is by Giles Nuttgens.

Dev Patel does what he can with this slow burn thriller, but the burn is ultimately far too slow, leading to a dud of an ending. Winterbottom sets things up decently well, making you curious to see how the story will reveal itself. Then, things just begin to grind to a halt. Worse, they just stay that way. Apte and Patel don’t really share any chemistry either, which is problematic when you essentially just have a two hander here. Both are giving good performances, but as a pair, you never feel any of the bonding that the filmmaker desperately wants you to feel.

Patel has another film hitting this month in Hotel Mumbai. That’s the stronger work (more on that one in a few weeks), though both that The Wedding Guest showcase his amble talent. He has an intensity and screen presence that not enough filmmakers are taking advantage of. Aside from his Academy Award nomination in Best Supporting Actor for Lion, he’s never really been given the credit he deserves. Plus, his stint on The Newsroom showed that he had solid comic timing as well. Patel deserves more. Something like this flick doesn’t give him the quality final product to showcase, but it did give him a starring role to sink his teeth into, and that’s something.

Having hit theaters yesterday, curious audience members can check out The Wedding Guest if they see fit to do so. Patel fans may well be pleased with what they fin here, though everyone else is probably going to be left wanting more. If you sense frustration here, it’s mainly due to how much potential was inherent in this mix of cast, filmmaker, and story. Alas, it was not to be. This film isn’t bad by any stretch, but it’s troublingly bland and never makes a compelling case for its own existence. To that end, it’s nothing to go out of your way looking for. The movie just never comes close to roping you in.

The Wedding Guest is in theaters now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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