Star Cast: Lily James, Shabana Azmi, Emma Thompson, Shazad Latif, Sajal Ali, and ensemble.
Director: Shekhar Kapur
What’s Good: There is a harmless feel-good rom-com that also tries to address some very valid conversations humorously. Also, can Emma Thompson accept me as her friend so we can b*tch about people all day?
What’s Bad: While it’s an earnest effort by a filmmaker trying to make a comeback with a more personal film, one cannot ignore the presence of the white man’s gaze at the Asian folks. It is more of Jemima Khan than Kapur.
Loo Break: It’s an entertaining watch with some clever humour. Nothing that will put you off to the extent that the loo becomes your rescue ground.
Watch or Not?: You can give this one a chance because it will have varied perspectives about it. Yes, it’s fun, but are we ready to ignore the problems?
Language: English (with subtitles)
Available On: In Theatres Near You.
Runtime: 108 Minutes.
An award-winning documentary filmmaker Zoe (Lily), decides to document her childhood friend Kazim aka Kaz’s (Shazad) wedding, the third-generation heir of an immigrant Pakistani family. In the process she explores the concept of the institution of arranged marriage and what it means to the ones involved in it.
What’s Love Got to Do with It? Movie Review: Script Analysis
Indian cinema will forever be in debt to Shekhar Kapur for introducing some of the most path-breaking cinema tools that filmmakers use religiously even today. He blended the commercial with art house in his work to an extent where a quirky sci-fi drama had a leading lady superstar dancing sensuously in a chiffon saree (Mr.India). He took Gulzar Sahab’s words and made it into a visual poetry (Masoom). Making way for the violent heartland to the screen, he made a film about the bandits and changed the grammar of a genre entirely for the generations to come (Bandit Queen).
So now, after his flight to the west and over a decade in oblivion, when he decides to make a comeback with a rom-com that reunites him with his leading lady from 4 decades ago (Azmi) and tells a story that looks very simple from the outside, the biggest question is what convinced him to tell this story as a film that marks his return to the mainstream? What’s Love Got To Do With It? It is not a film that has originated from Kapur, but he takes the source material from Jemima Goldsmith, the former wife of ex-cricketer and Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan. It is her partly lived-in experience and a tale she has observed over the years of being a British woman married to a Pakistani man.
The story is simple, without any complexities capable of turning this world upside down. There is no villain, but the societal conditioning and patriarchy very much take that position. The product is more of Jemima than Kapur because of the fact that Lily plays Zoe, who is witnessing and documenting all of this, resembling Goldsmith, making it an immediate personal diary of a woman. And when the character falls so close to a living person who is involved in shaping it, the product becomes more of theirs than anyone else. There is very little of Shekhar and all of Jemima raising the aforementioned question. Why would this be a comeback film of a maverick filmmaker?
One cannot take away the efforts that the team put in to talk about some of the very crucial debates while blending them all with the British royals and presenting how patriarchy and conditioning has not really spared them too. A boy sets out to find a bride for an arranged marriage where his parents decide what the complexion of the girl will be, which part of the world she should be from, and whether she is allowed to have a pet or not. And all of those things exist even after spending years in London as immigrants far from home. The conditioning within stays the same when the grandmother calls London a huge brothel.
Jemima, who wears many hats of being a journalist, an award-winning documentary producer, a social activist, and a philanthropist, was also a confidant to Princes Diana. Having worked as a consultant on The Crown, only to revoke her name later, calling the show a misinterpretation, she uses the patriarchal doom faced by the late Princes in her story very organically. Zoe, for her, is as firebrand as Diana; she makes Kazim mouth the lines said by Prince Charles, ‘whatever love is’. The attempt is not to compare but show the vices of both systems that are at loggerheads for years. The humour is bang-on and lands pretty well all the time.
Of course, the screenplay, at points, gets a bit too simplistic. In the quest to show the larger picture, the makers forget to built the relationship between the two leads only to make them kiss in the end making it look awkward because we never saw them fall in love.
What’s Love Got to Do with It? Movie Review: Star Performance
Emma Thompson can have all my love and teach me some brilliant comebacks to use in my day-to-day conversations. Caith, played by her, is used as the voice of the filmmaker as he wants to make a commentary about the situation unfolding in the movie. Add to the fact that the humour quote that Thompson brings to the table is level 100, and she says the most controversial of the things with so much grit that there is no way you won’t agree.
Lilly James gets to play the heaviest parts of them all. She is the connecting glue between everything that is unfolding in the movie. For someone who is playing a fictional part loosely inspired by real people is a task, and the actor does it with so much confidence. She is good at some emotionally deep scenes, and the confusion on her face works pretty good.
Shazad Latif as Kazim is good. He isn’t a flamboyant individual living the best London life, but a very tamed man who has vices but also respects his parents to the extent that he doesn’t even let them know he smokes. It’s an interesting character because he is relatable to many of us on this side of the planet. The actor makes it look organic.
Shabana Azmi is as effortless as she can be. Some of the wisest words about the society and living with the conditioning come from her character, which at first endorses all of it. There is reasoning to her behaviour which is correct according to her, and you aren’t supposed to be the judge because it is the life she chose to live.
What’s Love Got to Do with It? Movie Review: Direction, Music
While it is a good film that can be called an aware fairy tale, there is no Shekhar Kapur stamp on it. Yes, it’s done pretty well, when the filmmaker has given some of the most era-defining projects in his time, not having his USP now does bother the fan in me. Yes, he uses Tessa as his voice in the film, but it is a passer-by’s commentary more than active involvement.
The music and aesthetics of the movie are very white man’s perspective of Asians, and there is no avoiding it. Of course, our vision in this world is through a white woman, but the participants have lived a life in the country to decorate their surrounding more authentically.
What’s Love Got to Do with It? Movie Review: The Last Word
What’s Love Got To Do With It? Is indeed a harmless self-aware fairy-tale, but the fact that it has a name known for taking risks but seems very detached here is bothersome. You can give it a try for the feel-good cinematic experience it brings with it.
What’s Love Got to Do with It? Trailer
What’s Love Got to Do with It? releases on 17th March, 2023.
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For more recommendations, read our Creed 3 Movie Review here.
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