AW Kautzer's Film Review Film

Film Review: Polite Society (2023) 


A tale of two sisters, an arranged marriage, evil doctors, mommy’s boys, and more in writer/director Nadia Manzoor’s utterly delightful Polite Society.

Few films are adept at mixing genres up as adroitly and entertainingly as Polite Society.  Anchored by Priya Kansara and Ritu Arya as sisters that kick ass both metaphorically and literally. 

Ria Khan (Kanasra) dreams of being a stunt woman even if only her sister Lena (Arya) is the only one who believes her.  Though Ria’s life is turned upside down when Lena, who recently dropped out of art school, is set up by her parents with Salim (Akshay Khanna) – a well-off Geneticist.  Ria feels something is off with the pairing of Salim and Lena and quickly begins to investigate.  Her family, friends, and even her sister think that she is not just wrong but something may be disconnecting her from reality. Though the deeper Ria goes into this supposed “fantasy” it may not be.

Few films can navigate the genre mashup as successfully as Polite Society does.  Manzoor’s script is not just an adroit mashup of the genre but manages at every turn to buck the conventions and story troupes zigging when one expects it to zag.  Even beyond its acute understanding of genre, it realizes that to go beyond just a fun genre exercise one must have some sort of emotional throughline.  Manzoor’s movie takes the story of sisters and their bonds – tested and reassured – as the heart and soul that elevates this beyond a movie that resides as just “cool”.  

Priya Kansara and Ritu Arya have been in other projects but none that feel as tailored as beautifully as Polite Society fits each.  Part of the issue with films about siblings is the majority of the time the actors never feel like siblings.  Here Kansara and Arya feel like sisters that love each other as much as they bicker and get on each other’s nerves.  Kansara is an utter delight as the would-be stunt woman whose ego is as big as her talents. There is a natural charm to Kansara that you can’t help to root for and cheer her on hoping she’s right about everything.  Arya has the trickier role as the older sister.  The actor does a great job of making a role that could have come off as a cliché anything but.  

Polite Society hides its true nature until its unhinged third act.  That third act which is wonderfully delirious is earned with clever writing and filmmaking that adroitly builds up toward one of the most satisfying endings of recent memory.  

Polite Society is in Theaters Nationwide on Friday, April 28

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