Polite Society arrives in UK cinemas on Friday, 28th April.
Polite Society arrives in cinemas with a tornado of furious kicks and wry comedy. Imaginative and refreshing, it is the definition of chaotic energy. Yet its sage observations and fearless creativity ensure it is destined to be one of 2023’s funniest films.
Ria Khan (Priya Kinsara) is a teenager with ambitions of becoming a stuntwoman, despite the reservations of her traditional family. She practises martial arts, with fluctuating degrees of success, and uploads her hyperactive efforts to YouTube with help from her sister Lena (Ritu Arya), a recent art school dropout. When Lena gets engaged to the dashing Salim (Akshaye Khanna), Ria is convinced that something foul is afoot. Thus she begins investigating the sudden marriage arrangement, which quickly spirals into a full-blown heist plot.
Director Nida Manzoor’s feature debut follows her riotous comedy show We Are Lady Parts. Polite Society‘s quirky tone is not dissimilar to the show, but it swiftly differentiates itself in style. The film is a marriage of Islamic cultural dissection and dry British humour, delivering insightful commentary while simultaneously mocking. This is a multicultural tale about a young woman coming to terms with the construct of expectation and ultimately choosing to spin kick it in the face. Here quickfire editing and glorious exaggeration generate a jaw-dropping spectacle. Many of the conflicts open with captions that detail who is fighting who in a manner akin to a Street Fighter game. It serves the zany tone wonderfully, and the action itself is immaculate. It captures the glitz and glamour from the best of Bollywood cinema, particularly through its slow-motion effects, while choreographically maintaining an intense style akin to The Matrix. Crafted like a visceral dance, violence has never looked so beautiful.
Priya Kansara stars as Ria Khan and Ritu Arya as her sister Lena in director Nida Manzoor’s POLITE SOCIETY, a Focus Features release. Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh / © 2023 FOCUS FEATURES LLC.
Manzoor is unafraid to unleash hyperactivity, with many early fights featuring deadly destruction of property and horrific falls that would result in serious injury if the laws of physics were strictly followed. It’s ridiculous but proudly ridiculous. Such devotion to its tone is enhanced through the sharp dialogue and writing that lets all of the characters’ bright personalities, whether dastardly or silly, come through. Colourful in language and visual style, this film is unafraid of being itself.
Polite Society is a joy, and the genuinely poignant themes make it even better. Ria is a great leading character, full of energy and charm. Yet there is real anxiety in her inner world as she is weighed down by time, expectation and self-doubt. Despite her commitment to martial arts and stunt work, the question of whether she is good enough lingers, even if she hides her fear through teenage snark or over-commitment. One could even make a case for this entire film being the product of Ria’s overactive imagination as she struggles to reconcile her desires with her insecurities, which stem from her fear of the status quo – of polite society, if you will.
Lena shares these fears, and it is their responses to their nerve-wracking situations that drive the plot so kinetically. The sisterly dynamic between these two is the heart and soul of the film. Manzoor captures how wonderful this unique sibling relationship is through the in-jokes, arguments, rivalries and the inherent mutual care that underpins the unique quirks. Who needs conformity or societal status when sisterly love is much more rewarding?
Priya Kansara stars as Ria Khan in director Nida Manzoor’s POLITE SOCIETY, a Focus Features release. Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh / © 2023 FOCUS FEATURES LLC.
Fully on board with the eccentricities, the cast offers us a plethora of exceptional performances. Rita Arya’s charm and Nimra Bucha’s scene-chewing wickedness are big standouts, but Priya Kinsara is a revelation. It beggars belief that this is her first leading role. A natural talent with an effortless abundance of charisma, Kinsara takes the glee and flaws of Ria’s character and magnetically translates them onto the screen with physical commitment and emotional depth. If this doesn’t turn her into a star, it will be a real crime.
Polite Society is an epic action comedy so unrestrained in its delightful inventiveness that it’ll have your head spinning, figuratively and possibly literally. It is a visual, narrative, and thematic goldmine with mesmerising action, stellar performances and a hilarious script that embraces its absurdity. Stories from British-Pakistani perspectives – especially from Islamic teenage girls – are sadly few and far between, yet Manzoor’s commitment to such viewpoints is reason enough to admire the film. Beyond that, this is an unapologetically wild punch in the face of traditionalist etiquette, favouring companionship, individuality, and perseverance. Polite Society is a colourful marvel in unbridled entertainment.
WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT
Polite Society | United Kingdom | 1hr 43min | 2023
Polite Society is an epic action comedy so unrestrained in its delightful inventiveness that it’ll have your head spinning, figuratively and possibly literally. It is a visual, narrative, and thematic goldmine with mesmerising action, stellar performances and a hilarious script that embraces its absurdity.