“Polite Society”

Writer / director Nida Manzoor‘s “Polite Society,” her debut feature, is an original, goofy, and quirky story of female empowerment and sisterhood. It’s an action comedy that’s fresh and different, and the film tells a story that I haven’t seen before. With an energetic tone that embraces a bit of anarchy, this enjoyable midnight movie blends a variety of genres (including horror, martial arts, classic heist, and Bollywood musical) to create one unique vision.

London schoolgirl Ria (Priya Kansara) dreams of becoming a famous stuntwoman. She spends her free time training in the martial arts of combat and self-defense, hoping that polishing her skills will one day help her reach her full potential. Her older sister Lena (Ritu Arya) is off living her own dream by attending art school, but she suddenly returns home and announces that she’s dropping out because she’s just not good enough. This news crushes Ria, and she expresses her disappointment in her big sister.

Their relationship becomes even more rocky when Lena starts a whirlwind relationship with the charming, rich son of the distinguished Shah family, Salim (Akshay Khanna). This leads to one more surprise announcement: Lena plans to marry Salim after dating him for just one month. Angry that her sister has given up on her lifelong dreams for an art career and is instead settling for an unexciting and unfulfilling future as a trophy wife (not to mention the strong feeling that something isn’t quite right about Salim and his family), Ria is determined to do everything in her power to stop the wedding. She enlists her best friends Clara (Seraphina Beh) and Alba (Ella Bruccoleri) and plots an elaborate mission to kidnap her sister from her own wedding.

It’s a story of independence and emancipation with a spirited, lively energy that’s as charming as its cast. Kansara and Arya are delightful leads with excellent comedic timing, two very likeable, strong-willed women who are easy to cheer for. Bruccoleri and Beh as Ria’s ride-or-die besties add even more comic relief.

The film does have a hyper-quirky, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” eccentricity that is over-the-top and may feel obnoxious to some viewers, but it’s worth sticking it out for such an imaginative and unconventional story. Although Manzoor borrows heavily from other genres, I’ve never seen anything quite like “Polite Society,” which is why the film feels so exciting.

By: Louisa Moore

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