“Polite Society” has all the workings of a sleeper hit thanks to its blend of action, comedy, and injection of culture to make it stand out.


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Director(s) Nida Manzoor
Screenplay By Nida Manzoor
Date Released (In Theaters) – Special Screening 4/22/2023
Date Released (In Theaters) April 28, 2023
Genre(s) Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Duration 1 Hour 43 Minutes
Content Rating Rated PG-13
Noted Cast
Ria Khan Priya Kansara
Lena Khan Ritu Arya
Salim Shah Akshay Khanna
Fatima Khan Shobu Kapoor
Raheela Shah Nimra Bucha

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Film Summary

Ria has aspirations to be a stunt woman and has long hitched the idea that if her sister, Lena, can become an artist, she can also follow her dreams. However, Lena is at a point in her life where she doubts her talent, has dropped out of school, and is having a low period of her life. Ria, the best kind of sister anyone could want, praises her name and cheers her on in public and private, but it isn’t enough.

Hence when Salim, a single geneticist looking to settle down, becomes available, Ria and Lena’s mom, Fatima, push for Lena to be considered by Salim’s mom, Raheela. To much surprise, despite Lena not being the most prim, proper, and traditional Pakistani Muslim, she catches Salim’s eye, and the two date. Ria is pissed since Salim is taking away not only her sister but her camera person for her showcasing her growth as a stunt actress.

So, with that in mind, Ria and her friends seek a way to get rid of Salim and his mom from Lena’s life, only to discover something nefarious going on.

Things To Note

Why Is “Polite Society” Rated PG-13

  • Dialog: Cursing throughout
  • Violence: Multiple fight scenes that lead to blood, small cuts, and bruises
  • Sexual Content: No one has sex on screen, but there are some locker scenes with multiple male bare asses
  • Miscellaneous: There is drinking and smoking. Also someone gets drugged

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Ria

Precocious, tenacious, and a stunt woman in the making, Ria is the type to never back down from a fight, and if her intuition is pushing her to believe something is true, she’ll investigate it to the fullest extent.

  • You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Miss Eaton in “Bridgerton” and Flo in “The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself.”

Lena

Ritu Arya stars as Lena and Akshay Khanna as Salim
Ritu Arya stars as Lena and Akshay Khanna as Salim in director Nida Manzoor’s POLITE SOCIETY, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh / © 2023 FOCUS FEATURES LLC.

A recent art school dropout, Lena’s life is in limbo, and it isn’t clear what is next. So with Salim being easy to talk to and understanding during a vulnerable time, she falls for him and seems willing to live the life of a wife for now.

  • You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Barbie in “Barbie,” Lila Pitts in “The Umbrella Academy,” and Inspector Urvashi Das in “Red Notice.”

Salim

A high-value eligible bachelor, Salim is a doctor whose specialty is genetics, and while he is a very clear-cut momma’s boy, it seems Raheela has just enough boundaries for her son to let him date.

Fatima

Fatima is the odd one out amongst her group of Pakistani ladies. She isn’t rich or the most fashionable, nor has all the gossip. However, she still finds a sense of community with the other ladies and gets a sense of home. But, as much as she is willing to put up with the shade and traditional values with the ladies, she tries to be more liberal at home. Though, sometimes, what society expects and what privileges she wants her girls to have sometimes is in conflict.

  • You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Seema in “We Are Lady Parts,” Lady Sheffield in “Bridgerton,” and various characters in “Casualty.”

Raheela

Rich, fancy, and the local leader of the social caste system, Raheela is shady but can be kind. However, with being unhappy because of opportunities missed, you can see she lives vicariously through her son in some ways, but even that isn’t enough.

  • You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Najma in “Ms. Marvel” and Batool in “Churails.”

Review

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)

Notable Performances or Moments

Raheela

As shown and trailers and clips, Raheela is a scene stealer. Whether she is the regal, pretentious, local mothers’ group leader or this demented villain with a wicked laugh and fighting skills beyond Ria? Oh, similar to Manisha Koirala in “India Sweets and Spices,” while the younger ladies might get the most screen time and be used for marketing, all of their work means little without Nimra Bucha to play off of.

Highlights

Ria, Lena, and Faitma’s Dynamic

The film’s best parts that don’t include Raheela are when Ria and Lena interact and sometimes with Fatima joining in. Whether it is Fatima’s pseudo support for her girls, as long as it brings social clout or pride her way, or how Ria and Lena are each other’s best friends, until Lena has decided to pursue the route of just being a bride and setting aside other plans. The combination of these three allows you the kind of mother/ daughter or even sister relationships you rarely see have this amount of heart, comedy, and sometimes violence without coming off corny or in the pursuit of accolades.

The Action Scenes

Nimra Bucha stars as Raheela and Priya Kansara as Ria Khan
Nimra Bucha stars as Raheela and Priya Kansara as Ria Khan in director Nida Manzoor’s POLITE SOCIETY, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh / © 2023 FOCUS FEATURES LLC.

Speaking of violence, “Polite Society” exists in this balance of giving you old school, Adam West “Batman” vibes with modern accouterments like blood, gashes, and a certain flair. The Adam West “Batman” is brought in because Ria, in most of her fights, which sometimes you question the legitimacy of, brings in the narrative of her being a stunt woman. So, there are usually corny lines, and damn, if you wouldn’t assume a “POW” or “BAM” wouldn’t appear on screen, especially to note the fight isn’t real.

Because sometimes, you may find yourself wondering if the fight scene you see on camera is a battle of wits made into hand-to-hand combat moments. For example, Lena and Ria get into a fight over Ria trying to sabotage Lena’s relationship with Salim. It leads to vicious kicks, a broken door, and glass shattering, and it is hard to not wonder, “Is this legit? Did she really kick her sister through a door like that?”

But that’s part of the fun when it comes to “Polite Society.” Ria’s imagination plays into what actually happened, and it leads to what could have been a dull story of a girl fearing the loss of her sister becoming this action movie with heart and a good dose of comedy.

The Addition of Culture

What ties everything together when it comes to “Polite Society” is that it doesn’t just touch upon Ria or Raheela’s families being Pakistani Muslims, but it is part of what makes the movie. Ria feeling like Lena is being put into an arranged marriage is an issue, and you can see the conflicts between her being a modern woman and trying to accept this traditional practice. This leads to comical moments like her father explaining how arranged marriages save time by outsourcing the dating process to trusted advisors, i.e., your parents, and allowing you to focus on other things.

This is alongside watching fight scenes in which Ria has a Shalwar kameez on, and seeing it beautifully move as she kicks, does flips, or dances, and it just moves about with her in a stunning fashion. Everything we see about “Polite Society” makes it clear that this isn’t just a Pakistani or Muslim version of some movie featuring White people you’ve seen before. This is a built-from-the-ground-up experience, which may not go deep and niche into being Pakistani, Muslim, or even from an immigrant family, especially one that doesn’t have money like Raheela’s, but it makes it clear that these characters, these actors, are bringing who they are with them, rather than being westernized and assimilated.

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"Movie Poster," Polite Society, directed by Nida Manzoor
Polite Society (2023) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)
Overall
Highlights
Ria, Lena, and Faitma’s Dynamic
The Action Scenes
The Addition of Culture
Disputable
84

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