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Polite Society on Peacock is a must-watch gem from the creator of We Are Lady Parts

Published Jun 22nd, 2023 3:13PM EDT
Polite Society
Image: Parisa Taghizadeh/Focus Features

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At this point, I think I’m going to have to check out any series or movie I come across that has Nida Manzoor’s name on it. She’s the creator, for example, of one of the best original shows on Peacock (We Are Lady Parts, a fan-favorite show on the streamer about a Muslim female punk band) in addition to the writer and director of Polite Society. It’s hands-down one of the best films I’ve seen so far in 2023, and it’s now available to stream with a Peacock subscription.

At the risk of sounding like Stefon from SNL, this movie has everything. It’s a heartwarming drama about the power of sisterhood mixed with martial arts action, a tribute to Bollywood, razor-sharp British wit, and a raised middle finger to arranged marriages and the hierarchies of social class. Set in London, Polite Society follows schoolgirl Ria Khan, who dreams of one day becoming a great stuntwoman. She films YouTube videos of herself in training and gets in fights at school where she tries to put her training and martial arts prowess into practice.

She’s earnest, endearing, and an incredibly likable protagonist.

Ria’s world is turned upside-down, though, when she learns that her older sister Lena has decided to get engaged. Ria believes she needs to save her sister, who’s giving up on her own dreams, by rounding up some friends and pulling off an epic wedding heist. Without spoiling any details, it’s a universal feeling, a sibling feeling abandoned as a result of impending matrimony — but, in the case of this romp of a movie, Ria actually does need to save Lena.

Manzoor wrote the first draft of the Polite Society script years ago, when she was still in her 20s. And I can only say, thank God her project wasn’t rushed into being or her vision watered down, in addition to all the other horrible things that go wrong in Hollywood in service of some misguided notion about what won’t work and what will sell tickets. Manzoor is a first-rate storyteller who crafts heroines that it’s impossible not to root for, and she rewards anyone willing to give her a little over an hour-and-a-half of their time with a sweet, brilliant, defiant, heart-on-its-sleeve movie (a movie, by the way, that currently has a 91% critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes).

“I wanted to make this film for many reasons but predominantly so I could see a South Asian teenage girl as an action hero,” Manzoor says in an interview included with the Polite Society production notes. “I grew up loving the spectacle of action movies but feeling extremely left out, so this film is for my teenage self. South Asian characters are often relegated to shop owners and terrorists, token friends to the white leads. It meant everything to me to center the film around a South Asian girl — who is flawed and funny and kicks ass.”

Polite Society
Priya Kansara stars as Ria Khan and Ritu Arya as her sister Lena in director Nida Manzoor’s “Polite Society,” a Focus Features release Image source: Parisa Taghizadeh/Focus Features
Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.