Is Mira Nair an Indian filmmaker or an American filmmaker? Or both? Born in India, Nair moved to the US and honed her craft after graduating from Harvard. Her features reflect her mixed cinematic lineage: apart from the realism of her excellent debut Salaam Bombay! and the gloss of her unremarkable Hollywood effort The Perez Family, the director seems most at home with films that tell Indian stories with a Western cinematic sensibility.
As India boasts of having the largest middle class in the world (with a population over one billion, that's not that hard), Nair points her camera at this underrepresented (by cinema) population. It's refreshing to see an ordinary Indian family's approach to that quintessential American middle-class nightmare: a daughter's wedding. But because the film is set in India proper, a dose of exoticism is unavoidable.
Monsoon Wedding is drenched with atmosphere, color, song, and dance (though not the musical numbers you'd associate with Bollywood), with rich characters, and – unfortunately – some major melodrama. I would have liked this film just fine without the Beloved Uncle With A Sinister Side, the Illicit Love Affair With A Married Man, or the Showdown Between Two Old Friends When Honor Is At Stake.
Monsoon Wedding is most successful during its many lighter moments, and the actors are mostly excellent (with the notable exception of the actress playing the bride-to-be, who is pretty but rather flat) and enjoyable to watch – particularly the flaky wedding planner, who steals the show every time he pops up. If you can endure (or ignore) the predictable subplots and the jabs at high drama, Monsoon Wedding will make you feel like a welcome guest at a most joyous celebration.