Film Review: Polite Society | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, May 23rd, 2024  

Polite Society

Studio: Focus Features
Director: Nida Manzoor

Apr 24, 2023 Web Exclusive
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Nida Manzoor’s Polite Society is a fun enough, if not fully realized, action-packed romp that blends fantasy and reality to speak on growing up, following your dreams and the horrors of change, among many other things.

The film follows Ria Khan (Priya Kansara), a British-Pakistani teenager with one ambition in life: becoming the world’s best stuntwoman. She spends her days filming videos for her YouTube channel, training in boxing and martial arts and attempting to pull off the physically demanding “flying spin kick,” a move pioneered by her favorite stuntwoman and idol. The only person who supports Ria’s dream is her sister, Lena (Ritu Arya), an art school dropout who has no idea what she wants to do with her life.

Things quickly change when Lena meets Salim (Akshay Khanna), a young, wealthy doctor who keeps rejecting all the women his mother, Raheela (Nimra Bucha), sets him up with. As Lena and Salim get closer, everyone seems to support the couple except Ria, who questions the forward-seeming intentions of Salim and Raheela. Her doubts build when Lena and Salim announce their marriage after just one month together. So, with the help of her two best friends, Ria devises an elaborate plan to stop the wedding from proceeding. In the process, she stumbles upon a giant, dangerous secret.

As its summary indicates, Polite Society blends many genres, borrowing specific elements and clichés from each of them. What results is a film that is all over the place, for better and worse. Watching a movie that transitions directly from a scene of two sisters talking about the difficulties of pursuing their dreams to the two fighting one another using kung-fu and martial arts maneuvers is very entertaining. It also keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat by never giving them the full context of what could come. It’s constantly clear where the film is going, but how the plot will get there isn’t.

At the same time, the mash of genres makes most elements of the film feel underbaked, and, as a result, largely ineffective. The film transitions from small doses of serious moments to large ones of comedic relief too brashly. The story doesn’t seem to know if it cares more about channeling fantasy or realism. The final result is a story that constantly switches direction between these two endpoints, feeling so needlessly abrupt and forced that it’s difficult to determine what to take away.

Polite Society is also tonally inconsistent. The film’s two halves are completely different from one another. The first half tells the story of a young teenager trying to navigate her career and family drama. When the film reveals its twist at its midway point, the story completely changes direction and, as such, begins to fall apart. The film tries to accelerate its stakes by jumping from one plot point to another, all existing solely to create shock value. While this tactic works, as the film’s second half is nearly impossible to look away from, it makes the overall viewing experience unfulfilling, with themes that lack the development to make a true impact.

Author rating: 5.5/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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