April 28, 2023 / Universal Pictures Canada
Starring: Priya Kansara, Ritu Arya, Nimra Bucha, Akshay Khanna, Jeff Mirza
Directed By: Nida Manzoor
A merry mash up of sisterly affection, parental disappointment and bold action, Polite Society follows martial artist-in-training Ria Khan who believes she must save her older sister Lena from her impending marriage. After enlisting the help of her friends, Ria attempts to pull off the most ambitious of all wedding heists in the name of independence and sisterhood.
Written By Darren
Rating 3.5 out of 5
Polite Society is an impressive feature film debut for writer and director Nida Manzoor, playing with lots of great ideas and capturing a truly enjoyable tone throughout the film, only bolstered by the good performances from its lead cast.
While it may not have the multiverse bending madness that we experienced last year in Everything Everywhere All At Once, but much like that film, Polite Society is a truly unique original idea that is going to play well with audiences. Playing with themes of family and Pakistani culture in an action comedy, there is something for everyone in the film that is sure to delight audiences from start to finish. Most of this is attributed to writer and director Nida Manzoor who juggles all of the elements of the film, giving each element the time it needs to grow while ensuring that the film never loses steam or is short on laughs for a second.
Ria is a teenage girl who dreams of nothing more than becoming a professional stunt woman when she grows up, encouraged only by her older sister Lena, who is struggling to find her place in life. But once Lena meets Salim, falls madly in love with him and rushes into marrying him, Ria pulls out all the stops to stop the wedding and save Lena from what she believes to be the biggest mistake of her life.
From a story point of view, this film has the feel of an Edgar Wright film with the narrative structure and the heavy stylization of the action and comedy. While it is all about Ria trying to stop her sister’s wedding, the story unfolds like a James Bond film from the 1970s with an outlandish villain that feels like they are twirling the figurative mustache the entire film in the form of the groom’s mother and a diabolical and far fetched plan. Though, Manzoor never loses touch of the sisterly bond that is at the film’s core, ensuring that it remains the beating heart throughout the film. On paper, it sounds like an idea that should not work, but under Manzoor’s direction, this is one crowd pleasing film.
Visually, there is a lot to be impressed by in this film. The costume design is great with all the traditional Pakistani costumes at play during all the wedding festivities. Choreography for the fight sequences are excellent, combined with slow motion moments and creative camera work, allows the action sequences to leap right off the screen and draws the audience into the center of the excitement. And topped off with a score and soundtrack that keeps the energy high throughout the film, it is going to be hard to not have fun watching this film.
However, the strength of the film lies in its core cast. Priya Kansara blossoms on screen as Ria, bringing to life this infectious ball of energy. Her performance energizes the film as her character is dead set on breaking up her sister’s engagement, not allowing anyone to stop her. She is funny, relatable, and shines in the action sequences, while finding emotional depth to her character, which is no easy task. Never mind that this is her first leading role, proving that Kansara is an actress whose career holds great promise for the future. Ritu Arya has a smaller role as Lena, but forms the other half of the sisterly bond that defines the film. She is sweet and very funny, while creating an authentic onscreen connection with Kansara that gives the audience the stakes of what they are rooting to be saved in this film.
Though, the film would not work without the excellent performance of Nimra Bucha. As the mother of the groom, Bucha relishes in her outlandish role, creating a truly sinister undertone to her character. It feels like she is twirling a figurative mustache the entire film as she hatches her evil plans, unphased by what she sees as the childish attempts of Ria to stop her, that feels like a villain from a Roger Moore James Bond film who you can’t help but to chuckle at how ridiculous they are. It’s a committed performance that perfectly matches the tone of the entire film, creating a character that is simultaneously terrifying and incredibly goofy.
With wonderful performances from Priya Kansara as the lead heroine and Nimra Bucha as one of the best villains of 2023 so far, Nida Manzoor delivers a truly crowd pleasing experience with Polite Society that is never short on action, laughs, and a tremendous amount of heart.