It’s not a secret that Hollywood is in something of a repetitive cycle. A good portion of the biggest films are adaptations, reboots, and requels. That doesn’t mean that I loved Evil Dead Rise or John Wick: Chapter 4 any less, but the point still stands: original films are becoming harder and harder to produce. Rarer than that? Original comedies that are good.
So it’s not lightly that I say that Polite Society is a diamond in the rough. If you’re looking to break the monotony of your theater experience, it’s a must see.
The trailer highlights one of the most important things about this movie: it has layers. We start strong with a female lead who wants to be stunt woman; I can already tell you I haven’t seen that movie before. But the longer the trailer goes on, the more original the movie seems to get. The promise of an evil plot, teenage hijinks, and all the glamour of Bollywood make it a hilarious and unpredictable ride.
Generally, I don’t like giving spoilers in my reviews, but I have to talk about one of Polite Society‘s early fight scenes—namely because it makes such a smart move. One of the first full action sequences in the movie is a fight the Rhea has with a school bully. It’s expertly choreographed and way beyond any high school cat fight. During one stunt, Rhea does a flying kick and freezes in midair, which gives the bully the opportunity to grab her leg and send her hurtling back across the room. It’s the kind of anti-gravity gag you might see in a cartoon, but it plays a huge role in establishing the tone of the film.
It’s as if the story is rooted in Rhea’s experience more than reality, which gives the movie an extra dramatic flair. That helps make things fun, but it also keeps the audience on their toes. As the movie progresses, it becomes harder to tell what’s being framed as an exaggeration and what presents a real problem.
Another fabulous thing about Polite Society is the various cultural influences. It takes a lot of cues from Bollywood, resulting in some striking cinematography, elaborate fight choreography, and dazzling costume design. There’s even a musical number intercut with some of the action. At the same time, the film is thoroughly British, from its language to its humor. The result is a lively and colorful picture of London a little different from other portrayals. In short: it’s not your average American cinema experience.
English humor isn’t everyone’s cup of tea—pun intended—but the cultural differences lend themselves to a humor all its own, born out of the specific experiences of a British-Pakistani family. It’s hilarious to see teens teasing each other by saying, “You’re gonna be a doctor,” as an insult, or parents explaining an arranged marriage in the terms of investment banking. And no matter what your nationality, we can all relate to hiding from people you know in public because you’re doing something embarrassing like eating a whole chicken with your bare hands. (…No?)
Polite Society has a lot going for it, from amazing design to an incredible cast. Priya Kansara and Ritu Arya are an unstoppable duo and a joy to watch. If you’re looking for a fun film experience, I can’t recommend it enough.