What's Love Got to Do with It?
Feb 25, 2023
Lily James, Shazad Latif, Emma Thompson
The overriding pleasure of romantic comedy is the certainty of a plot that rolls merrily to a neat conclusion; and the confident expectation they all live happily ever after. If a few laughs are delivered en route it's a bonus as we feel a warm glow of satisfaction. What's Love Got to Do with It? hits all the marks with an engaging script from first time screenwriter Jemima Khan.
Young filmmaker Zoe (Lily James) has grown up living next door to best friend Kazim (Shazad Latif). He finally succumbs to an arranged marriage and enters a tortuous process carefully managed by his parents. Zoe sees an opportunity to film his travails as part of her latest project. Meanwhile, Zoe's mother Cath (Emma Thompson) applies her own brand of arranged marriage and pairs her with the local vet. Kazim finally Skypes his future bride and the wedding party flies to Pakistan for the nuptials. However, a bumpy flight provides an echo of the strife to come.
A standard template for rom-coms is followed almost to the letter. Two people secretly adore each other, but social barriers get in the way as they pursue separate yet parallel lives. Both fall into the trap of pleasing their parents although knowing they should follow their hearts. When push finally comes to shove we see that love conquers all. It's a portrayal of the 'East versus West' conundrum where cultures clash and finally learn to co-exist. It asks if the concept of arranged marriage is any less valid than spontaneous relationships favoured in Western culture. Can two people truly know each other before they commit. Is it possible to walk into love then fall in love? Jemima Khan has obviously drawn on her own marriage to Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan. But there's nothing revelatory or ground breaking here. Innovation is not the purpose of rom-com; we find comfort in things that are familiar and this film delivers the expected finale.
Lily James is in beguiling form as Zoe and rapidly emerging as the English Margot Robbie. Shazad Latif is charming and likeable as the doctor juggling personal happiness with duty. Emma Thompson sits more on the fringe of the plot as the interfering but well-meaning Cath. A solid cast perform well, but its James and Latif that do the heavy lifting and bring a good script to life.