Title: When Harry Tries to Marry
Directed by: Nayan Padrai
Starring: Rahul Rai, Stefanie Estes, Caitlin Gold, Osvaldo Hernandez, Freishia Bomanbehram, Zenobia Shroff, Tony Mirrcandani
There’s something about the romantic comedy genre that moviegoers just can’t get enough of. Why else would we get unoriginal film after unoriginal film and still continue to see them? Well, while they do tend to snag our money, that doesn’t mean they’re all worth it. They all get that romcom “Get Out of Jail Free Card,” but some seem to forget that other filmmaking conventions like sensible storytelling and proper performances are still necessary. Sure enough, while When Harry Tries to Marry makes good use of typical genre tactics, it falls far short having little more to offer.
Indian-born Harry (Rahul Rai) is a student living in New York. Thanks to his now divorced parents’ tumultuous relationship, he’s grown wary of love and plans to avoid their pitfalls by abiding by tradition and having an arranged marriage. It just so happens, once he decides to take the plunge and is assigned his perfect match, another possible candidiate steps into his life, Theresa (Stefanie Estes). For a while the two embrace their “just friends” status, but the closer Harry’s wedding gets, the more their romantic tension increases.
When Harry Tries to Marry is quite simple and that both helps and hurts the piece. First off, Harry is a wildly likeable character. He’s an all-around good guy that may doubt love, but at heart, is a romantic that wants nothing more than to make his one true love happy. This is Rai’s first film and it shows, a number of scenes drowning in the mere reading of lines rather than a believable performance, but he’s still convincing enough to make Harry an engaging character. If you care about Harry, you care about his situation and that’s what keeps you interested all the way through.
On the other hand, it’s also quite obvious this that is Nayan Padrai’s first feature film and in his case, he isn’t able to just slip by. His script is completely formulaic. The piece is well structured in terms of providing a well-establish protagonist, clear goals and properly formulated acts, but delving into the finer points of the piece is troublesome because, either they’re entirely unoriginal or they just don’t exist.
While we do learn quite a lot about Harry during the film, not enough information is provided about his life before. We know his parents are divorced and while Padrai’s script harps on that quite a bit, he never touches on what Harry’s school life was like prior to the day he and Theresa are paired together for a project. Perhaps this is a testament to Padrai developing intriguing characters, but you can’t help but to wonder, were Theresa and Harry friendly before? Does Harry have many friends? Is he someone that girls at school find attractive? While seemingly trite, all of this information is very necessary when it comes to understanding their relationship as the film progresses. Instead, the piece merely repeats information we already know, making the situation one-dimensional.
Similarly, the other people in Harry’s life are typical of the genre. He’s got his snarky pal Louis (Osvaldo Hernandez) and Theresa has her BFF, Mary (Caitlin Gold). Just like Harry, both are likeable, but on the other hand, neither really manages to make much of an impact or have an effect on the main plot of the film. The same goes for Harry’s parents. His father is some sort of free-spirited lingerie designer while his mother is an all-business real estate developer and Padrai really pushes their type A personalities to the max making the duo incredibly predictable.
As for the women in Harry’s life, Nita (Freishia Bomanbehram) is rather dull, but, on the bright side, that only enhances the effect of Estes’ character. Of course, she adopts the painful cliché of walking around with a camera in her hand, but otherwise, she’s a unique and curious person. She’s bold and sticks to her beliefs, yet there’s something about Harry that makes her composure crack, making her actions unpredictable. Estes is also one of the more talented members of this cast, putting on a convincing performance 100% of the time even when her character’s actions are a little nonsensical.
On the technical front, it’s also glaringly obvious that this is Padrai’s first go-around. Most of the scene coverage is quite standard, Padrai having cinematographer, Nick Taylor, pick up the obligatory two-shot and two singles and unnecessarily favor a crane when it comes to covering the wedding. There’s very little camera movement and some scenes, particularly ones in which there’s a lot of character movement, are awkwardly captured often resulting in jump cuts, continuity issues or plain old confusion. While the pacing is acceptable from beginning to end, in general, When Harry Tries to Marry could have benefited from some trimming in the editing room, particularly moments in between lines of dialogue.
While overall a noble effort, When Harry Tries to Marry is just too amateurish, basic and tacky to really make an impact. Had the time been taken to really fine-tune the script and figure out more interesting ways to tell the story visually, there could have been something here. However, clearly that’s not the case and When Harry Tries to Marry is subpar and unexceptional on all fronts.
By Perri Nemiroff