“POLITE SOCIETY” is writer-director Nida Manzoor‘s first film – as we best know her from her hit TV show “We Are Lady Parts” – a personal favourite of mine from Peacock. She stays within the Pakistani community culture that she knows and does so well with again here, giving us a very smart, yet super stylised, inventive and sometimes over the top familial story. Manzoor divides the film into five chapters – entitling each with the theme at hand such as “Khan vs. Salim” or “Khan vs. Khan”, highlighting what each chapter will offer up.
Priya Kansara, a newcomer to the big screen, stars as Ria Khan, a Sophomore/Year 11 private school student, Ria is highly determined to achieve her goal of becoming a working stuntwoman. She remains laser-focused on this despite her teacher and parents parents Rafe (Jeff Mirza) and Fatima (Shobu Kapoor), laughing it all off as nonsense and trying at every turn to re-direct her towards becoming a doctor. Ria also adores her older sister Lena (Rita Arya), who has recently moved back into her parents home after dropping out of a prestigious art school. Ria is worried about her as she seems to be drifting in life. So instead, together they film Ria’s stuntwoman ‘practices’ all the while she sends letters to top professional stuntwoman Eunice Huthart expresses her love for all things stunt related, and yet at some point, her life intertwines in them as well.
Things change quickly for everyone as at a meet & greet aka match-making soiree’ as Salim (Akshay Khanna), a doctor and every mothers dream match for their daughters, steps in and begins wooing and winning over Lena. Ria senses things aren’t right with the relationship and is also convinced that Lena should resume her dreams of being artist, rather than be with the too-good-to-be-true Salim. And then there is Salim’s mother Raheela (Nimra Bucha), who raises every red-flag visable as the overbearing mama’s boy mother. Of course, Ria suspects things aren’t all on the up and up here and sets out to prove it with her two best school friends Clara (Seraphina Beh) and Alba (Ella Bruccoleri), who get some of the best one-liners of the film. And the fun begins as they strategize and scheme to undercut the relationship, but they are no match for Salim’s mother.
While the story might have it’s over-the-top moments to be sure, the acting never does. Kansara and Arya are perfectly paired here and clearly are having fun as they execute the physical martial arts sequences beautifully, yet also show promise in the more serious moments switching back and forth flawlessly. And the supporting cast which we have yet to mention the school bully turned partner in crime Kovacs (Shona Babyemi), who offers some wonderful comedic relief helping the three friends out in their wily scheme to ‘free’ Lena. All these ladies need to be put on everyone’s “Actresses to watch for” lists – as well as filmmaker Nida Manzoor on their Female Directors to watch list. Anyone who can entertain at this level deserves the opportunity to do so as frequently as possible.
In the end, after all the kicks, punches, and schemes, ‘Polite Society’ is about culture, friends, sisterhood and being true to who you are with Nida Manzoor giving us extremely creative film with a balance of themes that proves immensely entertaining.
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Review Screening: Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR
“POLITE SOCIETY” FROM FOCUS FEATURES IS OUT IN THEATERS FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2023