What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

What's Love Got to Do with It
dir Shekhar Kapur
scr Jemima Khan
prd Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nicky Kentish Barnes, Jemima Khan
with Lily James, Shazad Latif, Emma Thompson, Shabana Azmi, Jeff Mirza, Sajal Ali, Alice Orr-Ewing, Oliver Chris, Mim Shaikh, Iman Boujelouah, Asim Chaudhry, Mariam Haque
release UK 24.Feb.23
22/UK StudioCanal 1h48

thompson azmi mirza

Is it streaming?

latif and james
Spicing up the venerable British romcom with culture-clash observations, writer Jemima Khan and director Shekhar Kapur add gentle provocations while giving the audience exactly what they want. Packed with endearing characters, the film feels so comfortable that we never worry where it's heading. While the important themes are important and sometimes edgy, the movie is never preachy. But there are serious things going on under the colourful, charming surface.
When Kazim (Latif) chooses to let his parents (Azmi and Mirza) find him a wife, his childhood friend Zoe (James) sets out to make a documentary about arranged marriage in multi-cultural Britain. Then after London matchmaker (Chaudhry) fails to find a suitable Muslim bride, Kazim meets family friend Maymouna (Ali) by FaceTime in Pakistan. With the wedding on, Zoe and her exuberant mother Cath (Thompson) join the family travelling to Lahore. Suppressing her own feelings for Kazim, Zoe begins to realise that this culture isn't quite as open and honest as it pretends to be.
Dialog ripples with discussions about marriage, quoting statistics (55% of love matches end in divorce, but only 6% of arranged ones) while making comparisons to things like dating apps and one-night stands. The argument is that both systems can ultimately arrive at love through a combination of chemistry, compassion, respect or commitment. Using the revisionist fairy tales Zoe recounts to her nieces, the film also explores her so-far disastrous search for a boyfriend, noting that perhaps it's more important to fall in like, then work into love.

The actors are so likeable that they're able to reveal dark corners in their characters without losing the audience's sympathy. James and Latif are terrific together, with a strong sense of friendly camaraderie after growing up next-door; they're basically family already, and both actors reveal tiny moments of romantic interest that are quickly brushed aside. As their mothers, Azmi and Thompson have the most complex roles, providing soulful honesty and quirky heart, respectively.

Khan's screenplay blithely walks into a corner, championing how a women doesn't need a man to define her, even as the requirements of the genre say otherwise. But the way she knowingly writes about this subculture is powerfully involving, as are sharply pointed moments that highlight endemic prejudices in British society. These and the film's ultimate note about the dangers of living with dishonesty carry a proper kick. But most audiences will simply love the way the movie spreads warmth and joy.

cert 12 themes, language 24.Feb.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall