For her first feature, We Are Lady Parts creator Nida Manzoor crafts the highly entertaining action/adventure/sci-fi hybrid Polite Society that explores what happens when traditional values and modern sensibilities clash to thrilling effect.
In Polite Society, Priya Kansara plays the strong-willed Ria – a Pakistani high schooler who wants nothing more than to become a stunt woman, a profession that her parents aren’t exactly keen about her pursuing after she graduates. Ria’s older sister Lena (Ritu Arya) is also something of an anti-traditionalist too, as she recently dropped out of art school due creative frustration and has been trying to figure out what’s next. The sisters end up at a hoity-toity party due to their mother Fatima’s (Shobu Kapoor) desire to fit in with all the other moms in their community where Lena is introduced to pretty boy Salim (Akshay Khanna), who is on the hunt for a wife.
Lena and Salim embark on a whirlwind romance that leads to them getting engaged, much to the chagrin of Ria who is convinced that her soon-to-be brother-in-law is up to no good. Ria sets out to try and destroy their relationship with the help of her pals Clara (Seraphina Beh) and Alba (Ella Bruccoleri). But as she amps up her “attack” on the betrothed, Ria stumbles into a situation she could not have possibly expected, and the teen is more determined than ever to stop her sister Lena’s wedding day before it’s too late.
If it sounds like I’m being a bit vague in my rundown of Polite Society, that’s on purpose because Manzoor’s story takes a few unusual turns (even if some of them are telegraphed early on in the film – but more on that later), and I want to preserve the ride for others. Suffice to say, Polite Society does a great job of blending together several different genres, and the results are a totally badass female-driven action/comedy/sci-fi hybrid that brings a lot of heart, humor and innovation to the table. I also enjoyed how well Manzoor’s story explores the clash between modernism and traditionalism in ways that feel relatable, regardless of your own experiences. The wire-fu sequences are totally fantastic, and blend in seamlessly with the more grounded aspects of Polite Society – a feat that isn’t always so easy to pull off – and both Kansara and Arya’s performances rule so hard here as well (the whole cast is excellent, though).
As mentioned, some of the unique turns that Polite Society’s script takes in the latter half of the film don’t completely land as hard as they should, simply because there are a few moments that precede these “WHOA” reveals that pretty much negate their impact, but that doesn’t mean they’re aren’t still impactful in some way. I think they would have just hit a little harder had certain revelations not been made earlier on in the film. That being said, that’s just me being a little nitpicky with the script because everything else about Polite Society kicks copious amounts of ass and I thoroughly enjoyed myself from start to finish.
Truth be told, I was only familiar with Manzoor’s work on We Are Lady Parts prior to Polite Society, but I am absolutely a fan now who will continue to follow her work far more closely from here on out because her debut feature totally blew me away.
Movie Score: 4/5