Over the past week, the 2023 Sundance Film Festival has unveiled a ton of solid movies from independent filmmakers we’ve been putting on your radar, from Daisy Ridley’s dark comedy Sometimes I Think About Dying to Jonathan Majors’ intense bodybuilding movie. But the strongest I’ve seen thus far doesn’t center on a performance from a big Hollywood name. Nida Manzoor’s feature debut, Polite Society, thrives on a blast of a concept and execution that will have me recommending it throughout 2023 to others.
Where do I even begin? Imagine the energy of modern classic Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, except it’s a coming-of-age comedy about a British-Pakistani teen who simultaneously has dreams to be a stuntwoman and needs to hatch a plan to make sure her older sister doesn’t marry the wrong man. It could have been over-the-top ridiculous in another filmmaker’s hands, but writer/director Manzoor nails a tone that weaves its way through a ton of fun and heartfelt moments that I think will connect with a lot of moviegoers once it hits theaters.
The 2023 movie release follows Ria Khan (Priya Kansara), who is determined to make her dream come true to become a stuntwoman despite many of her classmates not believing in her. She takes to YouTube to show off her stunts with the help of her older sister Lena (Ritu Arya), who has just dropped out of art school. However, when Lena decides to push aside her dream and take a left turn with really quick marriage plans, Ria puts her focus on hatching a plan with her two best friends to investigate her future in-laws.
Throughout Polite Society, I thought I had it pegged. Some of the plot points certainly echo those of other family-centered comedies at first, but as the story unfolded, it just kept throwing me for a loop in the best way. Along with it being a really sweet story about the strength of sisterhood, it’s riddled with a ton of clever stunt scenes that absolutely slay, sometimes even better than a somewhat comparable story, like Ms. Marvel.
I absolutely love when genre films go hand-and-hand with the message they are trying to emotionally tell, and Polite Society does this too. I won’t get into spoilers regarding the reveals that are made later on, but the movie really speaks to some of the real anxieties that come along with marriage and settling down from quite a few different perspectives that is super memorable and interestingly executed. Nimra Bucha in particular gives a stellar performance as Lena’s mom-in-law to be, but wow, did Polite Society’s young lead, Priya Kansara, steal the show with an awesome leading debut that I think will be the start of some big things for the actress.
Polite Society premiered at Sundance ahead of award-winning studio Focus Features taking it to theaters on April 28. Stay tuned for more festival coverage here on CinemaBlend.