What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Review by Fatima Sheriff @reaffirmsfaith

Directed by

Shekhar Kapur

Starring

Emma Thompson Lily James Oliver Chris

Anticipation.

The only Indian British rom-com writer I trust is Gurinder Chadha.

Enjoyment.

Has some delightful moments of chemistry and joy.

In Retrospect.

This second-culture kid wanted more that this flimsy writing could offer.

A filmmaker sets out to document her best friend's arranged marriage in Shekhar Kapur's culture clash romantic comedy.

Zoe (Mamma Mia darling Lily James), a documentary film-maker, is looking for her next project and is met with a wave of unenthusiasm from her investors. Suddenly, her neighbour Kazim (Shazad Latif) announces he is getting his parents to find a wife for him. As a successful doctor, a catch universally acknowledged by any mosque match-maker, his willingness to take the plunge and marry a woman with whom he has only video called and exchanged an awkward conversation, is jarring.

Yet the stars align for Zoe: she has a new project, and she has an excuse to probe the alien concept of “assisted marriage” as they call it these days. As someone who always picks wrong’uns, the lens turns both ways, and Kazim questions her inability to commit as much as she questions his eagerness to do so.

Though this contrast of dating apps and dowries is well-intentioned, and the burgeoning chemistry between the stars is sweet, the script is too basic to account for their equally irrational approaches to love. Romantic comedies are meant to be cringe-y and based on morally questionable conundrums, but James and Latif’s individual charms and dynamic is undone by the way their characters’ choices make them feel lost in a way that is completely unrelatable. Coupled with the way the ex-Disney princess frames all her dating exploits as failed fairy tales for her friend’s daughters, the script ends up littered with clichés and confusion.

In a leap from the grumpy immigrant mother in Last Christmas, Emma Thompson becomes an out-of-touch parent, becoming the uber-awkward Brit embracing multiculturalism. It wears a little thin but echoes the best parts of Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham, and though silly, brings an appreciation for the future of the older generation doing their best to try new things. One shining aspect of the ensemble is Pakiza Baig, who plays the grandmother who brings hilarity and soul to the family with her unfiltered Urdu opinions.

Assisted marriage is a minefield, one that by the nature of its lack of privacy leads to polarised success or implosion. In this story, for example, Kazim’s brother Amir has an adorable marriage with his wife. But it is obvious that, aside from the fact their parents knew each other, Amir and his wife share common ground and interests, so it feels almost insulting to compare it to his brother simply shipping a gorgeous girl from Pakistan (Sajal Ali) and just hoping he’ll make it work. The film does reference When Harry Met Sally to show how that relationship, and that of Kazim’s parents are lovely, but it does feel like an insult to the culture to choose such an obviously doomed relationship as a way to centre the practice.

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Published 25 Jan 2023

Tags: Emma Thompson Lily James Oliver Chris Shekhar Kapur What's Love Got to Do With It?

Anticipation.

The only Indian British rom-com writer I trust is Gurinder Chadha.

Enjoyment.

Has some delightful moments of chemistry and joy.

In Retrospect.

This second-culture kid wanted more that this flimsy writing could offer.

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