Economics in Wedding Season

You watch a romantic comedy to feel good. I was tired at the end of last week, so “Wedding Season” Netflix looked like it might be funny. I was not expecting that the protagonist would be an economist.

First, how was the movie? The first half was somewhat entertaining. The second half is too sappy and long for me.

This movie is one of the few movies I know that is just unironically set in New Jersey. There were no jokes about Jersey or Shore folk. New Jersey is where immigrant families from India are making dreams come true. The dialogue about immigrant Indian culture, including arranged marriages, was interesting.

You know the trope about a character becoming rich because they inherited money from an estranged uncle? In Wedding Season, the guy becomes unexpectedly rich from Facebook stock.

Second, how was economics portrayed?

Here is the plot summarized by Wikipedia

Asha is an economist working in microfinance who has recently broken off her engagement and left a Wall Street banking career behind to work for a microfinance startup in New Jersey. Asha’s mother Suneeta, concerned for her future and against the advice of her husband Vijay, sets up a dating profile through which Asha meets Ravi.

In the beginning of the movie, Asha pitches microfinance to investors from Singapore. Asha tries to convince them using graphs and statistics. The investors turn her project down.

Microfinance was hyped in the 2000’s. I believed, so became a Campus Kiva Representative as an undergraduate. I convinced teens in my dorm to pool our dollars to sponsor a loan for a woman in a poor country. Since then, economists have done empirical work to show that microfinance is not as effective as we hoped (see work by 2019 Nobel Prize Winners Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee). The filmmakers either do not know the latest research or they don’t care. The pitch is still as emotionally appealing as it was when I heard if for the first time 15 years ago, so it makes for good movie scenes.

The irony in Wedding Season is not only that Asha succeeds in getting bankers from Singapore to invest in microfinance but also how she goes about it.

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