Teenage Ria Khan knows she’s going to be a professional stunt woman someday. She trains all the time, often recruiting her older sister Lena to film her best moves. But when Lena gets pulled into a whirlwind romance and a quick engagement, everything in their lives changes. 

Ria suspects something’s up, but Lena insists this marriage is what she truly wants. Unconvinced, Ria recruits her friends to help investigate her sister’s fiancé – ultimately leading to an ambitious heist where she’ll need to break out all her skills to rescue Lena from her own wedding.

Polite Society comes from writer/director Nida Manzoor. Manzoor previously created, wrote, and directed the TV series We Are Lady Parts, but Polite Society is her first feature film.

Polite Society is a genre-bending good time

Polite Society can be hard to describe, because a whole lotta genres were invited to this party. “Action comedy” isn’t an inaccurate description, but it also doesn’t quite cover the wild journey Polite Society takes you on. There’s also romance, melodrama, a heist, mystery, thrills, a coming-of-age story, and arguably a touch of sci-fi by the end. It’s loaded with Bollywood influences, British humor, and South Asian and Muslim cultural touchpoints. (The way a Muslim mom can weaponize a well-placed inshallah/mashallah…unparalleled.)

Priya Kansara as Ria Khan and Ritu Arya as her sister Lena in director Nida Manzoor’s POLITE SOCIETY, a Focus Features release. Credit: Saima Khalid / © 2023 FOCUS FEATURES LLC.

Nothing about Polite Society is subtle or reserved – and honestly, I wouldn’t want it to be. You’re in for action sequences that make you cheer for the protagonist, plenty of laughs, and some off-the-wall but delightful plot points. (Think Mission: Impossible or James Bond-style action, but instead of trained spies, the charge is led by teen girls.) Is there a lot going on here? Sure. But this is undeniably a movie that knows how to have FUN. I truly enjoyed the experience from start to finish.

The cast is incredible

The Polite Society cast does a fantastic job here. The chemistry between the actors, aided by Manzoor’s realistic and immersive dialogue, instantly draws you into this world and everyone’s relationships. While the action makes the film fantastical, the characters ground it and keep it relatable to the audience.

First, the sister relationship between Ria (Priya Kansara, Bridgerton) and Lena (Ritu Arya, The Umbrella Academy) was absolutely spot-on. Truly, is there a greater sibling dynamic than forcibly dragging your sister out of bed against her protests one minute, only to have her enthusiastically hyping you up the next? Ria and Lena often fight and find themselves at odds, but they also clearly love and support one another. Their relationship drives everything in Polite Society, and Kansara and Arya bring you on board for the journey with ease. 

Ria, Clara (Seraphina Beh), and Alba (Ella Bruccoleri) are an amazing trio too; you instantly feel drawn into their friendship, and they’re all very funny in their roles. Polite Society does a great job displaying the highs and lows of teen friendships. The inside jokes, the fights, the unconditional support, and (maybe most importantly) the unwavering commitment to dumb hijinks. 

And of course, Nimra Bucha (Ms. Marvel) as a villain is an absolute delight. Her conniving, underhanded, manipulative, but outwardly sweet mother-in-law role plays perfectly off Kansara’s Ria. Is Raheela just a mother determined to marry off her son? Or are her motives somehow more sinister? Ria’s determined to find out, and as the audience you’re right there with her.

(L to R) Nimra Bucha as Raheela and Priya Kansara as Ria Khan in director Nida Manzoor’s POLITE SOCIETY, a Focus Features release. Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh / © 2023 FOCUS FEATURES LLC.

Just go with it, and you’ll have a good time

I can see how this story, jam-packed with different genre elements and its heightened sense of reality, may not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re a stickler for realism or you’re looking for a more straightforward coming-of-age story, Polite Society might not be for you. But if you’re willing to go with the flow and immerse yourself in Ria’s world, you’ll have a good time riding out every twist, turn, and high-flying kick.

Polite Society premieres in theaters April 28.