Nida Manzoor splashes onto the scene with her full-feature debut Polite Society, a charismatic blend of genres that provides an easily engaging adventure filled with heartfelt themes, witty humor, and wild action. Manzoor also writes this story that follows a young girl named Ria (Priya Kansara). Ria will get the help of her friends to save her older sister Lena (Ritu Arya) from an upcoming marriage that Ria doesn’t think feels right. Through Ria and Lena’s sisterly bond, Manzoor crafts two very likable characters that can connect with you for different reasons. Ria’s growing up and fearing losing the daily presence of her older sister’s guidance. While Lena’s at a crossroads in her life as an artist and feeling like it’s time to grow up.
They’re flawed like any of us. So, you can easily connect to them, and their love for one another, to invest in their individual journeys. This gives Polite Society a pair of strong characters to build around and the performances from both Kansara and Arya deliver the needed range. Ria is a charming teenager with a blend of maturity and naivete, and Lena, while being an adult, has a childish energy. She can relate to Ria, they very much think alike, and this captures a sincere vibe between these sisters. This also gives the film spots of effective humor as they both veer far from the traditional Pakistani customs of those around them. Ria and Lena are quirky, both are more than slightly rebellious in their own way, and it’s humorous to see explored.
Manzoor’s writing does keep a quick pace and the overall story progression is easily consuming. However, it does feel a little scattered at times. The focus would stray slightly to other characters, in some instances to deliver conversational laughs in the dialogue. Then other more important beats of the story felt a bit rushed and missing some of the proper seeding needed to frame up future plot points. The tone was also uneven at times, going from lighthearted and silly, to emotionally intense(ish), to overtly violent. I particularly didn’t mind this so much. To me it gave the movie an air of unpredictability that was fun while watching. But it was noticeable and may be a drawback to some who like a more emotionally grounded film.
The final act also gets a bit too over the top. Like I said the story goes from here to there and back again for the first three quarters then the finale kicks in and without the proper building of this ridiculous premise it doesn’t land so well. Its action packed, and amusingly chaotic. The fight choreography is tight and without question fun to watch. But the premise becomes so silly, it reaches the point of being too dumb and feeling too different from the film that leads up to it. It doesn’t kill the connection you have to Ria and Lena, nor does it break the intrigue of seeing how the story will end for them. But the absurdity will potentially pull some people out.
In the end, where Polite Society has its flaws, it also has its positives and, in her debut, Manzoor is able to craft an entertaining film filled with great action, effective laughs, and a sisterhood at the core that can lure you in. This is a film you must admire on some level for bringing creative ambition. It was great to sit back and watch a movie that goes on its own path to try new things. Not all of them work but that’s just part of it. Doing more things well than you do wrong is always the intent. I think Polite Society easily accomplishes that, I had a great time watching and I recommend checking it out.
Cast: Priya Kansara, Ritu Arya, Seraphina Beh, Ella Bruccoleri, Sally Ann, Shobu Kapoor, Akshay Khanna, Nimra Bucha, Shona Babayemi Director: Nida Manzoor Writer: Nida Manzoor Distributor: Focus Features Running Time: 103 minutes Rating: PG-13 (Strong language, violence, sexual material, brief partial nudity) Language: English Genre: Action/Comedy Year: 2023
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2023 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.