Writer and director Nida Manzoor’s feature film directorial debut ‘Polite Society’ follows aspiring stunt woman Ria Khan who believes she must save her older sister Lena from her impending marriage to a devilishly handsome suitor. After enlisting the help of her friends, Ria attempts to pull off an ambitious wedding heist with disasterous results.
For much of the film, audiences are left wondering if the action that takes place is all in the lead characters head, or if they are truly brawling. Scenes of the two sisters smashing through walls in their family home, wire-work high-flying kicks or other stunts are all hyper-stylised. In this way we were reminded of other genre mashups such as ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’. Unfortunately the film never quite leans in far enough to make these otherfight scenes truly work in the universe they are building.
The sisterly affection of the two leads is well handled, as is the parental disappointment and cultural pressures. For what could have been quite a witty and fun action/comedy/Jane Austin mashup, we instead spent the first 60 minutes waiting for something to happen. When the action did arrive, it was fun, fast, well-executed and always story-driven.
Scenes of Ria’s mother fawning for attention, or her friendship group at school all added some warmth to the characters but ultimately the slow pace and unnecessary scenes let us down. The final act built up to an ‘all or nothing’ showdown at a wedding which could have ended the film on a high, instead an additional scene carried the film on for another 10 minutes with nothing to add. This lack of clear direction with the editing meant a run time of 1 hour and 43 minutes which could have easily been trimmed to a more concise story.
Polite Society is a fun modern take on a Jane Austin novel, mixed with martial arts, comedy and some truly fun fight scenes that is ultimately let down by slow pacing and a long runtime. The stars of the film shine with a sisterly bond, and the cultural pressures of marriage and standing are rich grounds to explore. If you are a fan of British rom coms and action, there will be something for you in this film.
– The Plus Ones