April 28th, 2023
MOVIE: POLITE SOCIETY
STARRING: PRIYA KANSARA, RITU ARYA, NIMRA BUCHA, SERAPHINA BEH, ELLA BRUCCOLERI, AKSHAY KHANNA
DIRECTED BY: NIDA MANZOOR
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
With a title like Polite Society, you will be surprised to hear that it’s one of the most kick-ass movies of 2023. It’s also quite original, not just in its story of one sister being suspicious of her sister’s new boyfriend, but in how it blends kung-fu action, coming-of-age, family drama, and comedy all into one. Writer/director Nida Manzoor throws it all into a blender and makes it work. Polite Society is a real kick of energy that brings a whole lot of fury.
Our hero is Ria (Priya Kansara), a high school kid in London, with a great ambition of becoming the next best stunt woman. Her best friend is her sister Lena (Rita Arya), an artist that has recently dropped out of art school and is contemplating her next move. Although there’s no guarantee, the two of them inspire one another to keep their dreams alive, making action-packed YouTube videos together, and giving general encouragement. Their parents want a more stable life of finding love and take them to a soiree with Raheela (Nimra Bucha) and her son Salim (Akshay Khanna). The party was to find a suitor for Salim and it turns out Lena hits it off with him. First Ria thinks it’s just a fling. Then it turns serious and quickly becomes an engagement. But there is something else afoot, a mystery behind what Salim and his mother want, and Ria is going to figure them out.
From the narrative structure director Manzoor could easily have made this just a rom-com. There is much more style instead. Much of it could be taking place in Ria’s imagination. A fight with school bully Kovacs (Shona Babayemi) turns into a full-out kung-fu battle with flying kicks and bodies flying into trophy cases. Manzoor highlights fights like a Mortal Kombat video game and chapters split up segments of the adventure. It at times can be scatterbrained but it follows the lead of Kansara, whose performance is hilarious, sharp, and filled with passion. The entire energy of Polite Society is one of wild spirit that permeates from the screen.
The second half becomes Ria’s mission to stop the wedding. It mixes in tropes of hilarious spy thrillers like The Pink Panther, with Ria and two friends Alba (Ella Bruccoleri) and Clara (Seraphina Beh) wearing disguises to steal any dirt they can dig up on Salim. Although the third act begins to feel made up as it goes along, Manzoor’s writing is too sharp to not make every moment count, including a final showdown with Mother Raheela like a final stage against the big bad guy. It’s how Manzoor captures the independent spirit of women today, pushing back against the thought of arranged marriages, others telling them that they cannot pursue their careers, and showing off that they can kick a lot of butt in the process.
As it continued it was hard to pin down what Polite Society reminded me of- it has a bit of Bend It Like Beckham for stunt women, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and the wit of Lady Bird. It ultimately is something of its own. Set in London, with women inspired to be the next Michelle Yeoh, a Bollywood energy, and unafraid to give our hero an arc from self-doubt to confidence. It’s impossible to not be won over by the fearless inspiration in Polite Society. This is one movie that packs a powerful punch.
POLITE SOCIETY IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY APRIL 28TH, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady