‘Polite Society’ – Review

Influenced by Western and action films, Nida Manzoor’s Polite Society is an insight into sibling dynamics documented through a bold coming-of-age film that has the potential to become a classic for younger generations.

Polite Society revolves around a pair of sisters, Ria (Priya Kansara) and Lena (Ritu Arya). Ria dreams of following in the footsteps of her idol to become a stuntwoman. Her admiration for the stuntwoman is explored through written letters that also work as a voiceover narration for the film. Ria demonstrates her passion through physical brawls at school and making videos for her YouTube channel filmed by her older sister Lena. Lena is the older of the two and is the opposite of the confident Ria. She hides away in an oversized hoodie as a struggling artist. When the two sisters are in sync, they are everything to one another, with a charisma that drives the film.

Since dropping out of art school, Lena has returned home, leading to a close relationship developing between the two sisters. All is bliss until a force in the shape of a handsome doctor (Akshay Khanna) who wins Lena’s heart threatens to split the duo, turning the film into a brutal breakdown between sisters. Ria becomes horrified at the thought of her sister throwing away her artistic aspirations in favor of getting married and moving to Singapore. Ria and her friends devise an outlandish plan to prevent the marriage and save Lena.

From this point, the story spirals and makes you question what is real and what is not. Manzoor approaches the simple story of sibling drama through varied genres from film and books that feel like their own multiverse. She splits her whiplash into multiple chapters to help audiences follow along. The drawback of these chapters is that it seems better suited to break the film down into a TV show with each section as a different episode instead of one long narrative that has an identity crisis. At its core, it is Manzoor’s stimulating imagination creating a story of a family that might feel reminiscent of a Tarantino movie or Scott Pilgrim. The camera kinetically captures the outspoken Ria and her destruction that turns Manzoor’s script into a dance. Manzoor makes her own mark using these absurd moments to mimic the idea of the Gen Z collective growing up with dreams only to be mocked for following them.

While the story certainly focuses on the sisters, it is also about the generational divide between the sisters and their traditional parents. The dreams of the girls differ from what their parents had in mind for them. In their close-minded social circle, they would rather the two of them settle for a stable job and marriage. Manzoor brings out the comedy in the clash of tradition versus modernity. Although their parents don’t see eye to eye with their ambitions, they are written to be supportive through the warm family dinners. They are just worried like any parent is.

The film is a star-making vehicle for not only its director but its leading lady, Priya Kansara. This role requires comedic timing and physicality that doesn’t alienate the viewer but allow them to empathize with her no matter how manic she gets. Kansara perfectly embodies the experience of being a 16-year-old girl and how one minor inconvenience, such as your sister getting married, is literally your doomsday, allowing for Manzoor to play up absurd gags that feel played out at times. For Ria, it is not about losing her sister but the implications of her sister not fulfilling her dreams meaning that Ria also won’t. The film can be best described as a spectacle but it maintains an emotional through line that brings all its zaniness together.

Grade: B+

Oscar Prospects:
Likely: None
Should Be Considered: None

Release Date: April 28, 2023
Where to Watch: In Theaters

Jillian Chilingerian
she/her @JillianChili
Lives in LA
Favorite Director: David Fincher
Sign: Leo

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