Thursday, May 4, 2023

Love, culture and romcom ploys

 Predictability isn't fatal in a romcom. It doesn't matter that we know who'll wind up with whom within the first 10 minutes, which is the case with What's Love Got To Do With It?, a cross-cultural romcom about a British documentary filmmaker (Lily James) and a Pakistiani/British doctor (Shazad Latif). The two grew up as next-door neighbors and best friends. James' Zoe wants to make a documentary about Latif's Kazim's arranged engagement to a woman (Sajal Ali) who lives in Pakistan. Kazim insists that there's more to marriage than love. Love may not even be the most important ingredient. He agrees to allow Zoe to film the arrangements preceding  the marriage even though she's skeptical about the idea of a wedding  between two people have never met. Watching Zoe handle a camera leaves little doubt that no film could result from her work, but that's a minor point. Emma Thompson signs on as Zoe's flamboyant mom; she accompanies her daughter to Pakistan for the nuptials. Kazim's sister (Mariam Haque) has been ostracized from the family for marrying a white Brit, a story that might have made a better movie than the subplot it becomes here.  Director Shekhar Kapur fills the Pakistan scenes with color, adding travel-brochure appeal. James essentially carries the film as it moves through situations designed to deal respectfully with Muslim culture while still upholding western ideas about romantic love. This is less a severe clash than a cultural pillow fight. A mild-mannered movie that tries for a sentimental, tear-jerker of a conclusion, What's Love Got To Do With It? proceeds pleasantly but quickly melts away after having ruffled very few feathers.

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