Oedding Season, an animated romantic comedy set in the Indian-American community of Newark, New Jersey, bears the full Netflix house signature. Its plot is a mix of cliches, its set design somewhere between fixable and cheap, its acting either solidly watchable or parody-compliant. It revamps deeply familiar tropes into easy listening. It depicts a minority community in the United States with enough knowledge to feel grounded and respectful, but with enough frivolity and romance to cater, naturally, to global audiences. Because of or despite these things, it’s basic fun to watch, its entertainment quality less in how it makes you think or feel and more in how easy it is to submit to floating along the emotional current.
Directed by Shanghai Noon’s Tom Dey and written by Shiwani Srivastava, it could be described as the Netflix Indian Matchmaking series crossover with Hulu’s Four Wedding and a Funeral remake, mixed with the Netflix hit Never Have I Ever (one of the first shows to portraying the child of Indian immigrants as the quintessential American teenager, created by Mindy Kaling), and shot through with the classic trick of deceptive romance. It is more than that sum, although made up of obvious parts.
We start with thirtysomething Asha (Pallavi Sharda) falling asleep on her couch surrounded by a comical amount of noodle containers, rushing to a meeting late, spending the night at her desk – she’s the stubborn shrew and secretly solitary to tame. Asha has one foot in the mainstream American career world – she worked as a banker and went into microfinance, the details of which are as vaguely sketched as the ad for Emily in Paris, Netflix’s quintessential TV show – and a foothold in the traditional Indian world of his parents. Panicked that her daughter will be unmarried for her younger sister Priya (Arianna Afsar)’s wedding to Nick (Sean Kleier), a white man who embarrassingly tries to ingratiate herself with Indian Hindu traditions, the mother of ‘Asha, Suneeta (Veena Sood), pretends to be Asha online and puts on a show. an appointment.
Ravi, endearingly played by Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi and, more recently, Hulu’s How I Met Your Father) is, on paper, everything an Indian mother would want: devoted son, spelling champion childhood, attended MIT at 16, works for a vague startup. His profile was also orchestrated by his parents (Manoj Sood and Sonia Dhillon Tully), owners of a struggling Indian restaurant, but he is interested in Asha (she is gorgeous). She says it will never happen, on the principle of defying burdensome parental expectations (i.e. happiness requires a husband). But like in Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or 10 Things I Hate About You or so many rom-coms in between, there’s a fake dating plan – Asha and Ravi agree to pretend to date 14 marriages to keep talkative aunts and their parents’ scheming temporarily at bay.
There are various disappointments and revelations – Ravi’s on-paper CV doesn’t quite match his IRL, Asha has her own reasons but isn’t emotionally honest – all pointed in a clear direction and happily ever after, all ultimately harmless. Still, it’s fun to watch Ravi and Asha fall in love; Sharma can carry a whole scene with her eyes – deep pools of cuteness – while Pallavi vibrates with the nervous energy of balancing too many competing interests. The two have a naturalistic chemistry that makes the various deceptions seem innocuous and the chastity of their romance (sex is barely involved) seems odd and anachronistic.
True to Netflix rom-coms, Wedding Season strikes a visual balance between serviceable and chintzy. Dey’s directing is basically anonymous in Netflix house style (although there is, of course, a Bollywood dance credits sequence.) Scenes at Asha’s unplaced office, in which her debonair boss James (Damian Thompson) and his colleague Tina (Ruth Goodwin) pitch investors for a London HQ, looks like Emily in Paris lite. The 14 wedding set-up gives costume designer Courtney Mitchell plenty of room to deck out the cast in an array of beautiful outfits, which is always compelling.
The emphasis on the splendor of marriages underscores that beyond Never Have I Ever or Bridgerton’s second season, there are still very few South Asian-majority American productions. I am a white American; I can’t say what makes an accurate depiction of a diasporic wedding, but I can say wedding season is generally fun to watch; it addresses the acute elitism of parents and the strained compartmentalization of their first-generation children without getting too bogged down in stereotypes or seriousness. That’s the mandate of the genre – there will always be room for a good rom-com, and planning an Indian wedding is ripe for one. As Netflix content becomes available, wedding season is on the better end of the spectrum.