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Review: What’s Love Got to Do with It? – “As insightful as it is hilarious”

Written by Jemima Khan, drawing from her relationship experience marrying across cultures, she deftly handles this clever and funny rom-com. Brimming with insightful cultural observations and discussions about love and relationships, the film is as insightful as it is hilarious. Starring Lily James as Zoe, an amateur documentarian hoping to go pro, she turns to her friend Kaz, played by Shazad Latif, begging him to document his journey into an arranged marriage. From there the film explores love and what it means across generations, culture and religion. Where it falls short is the chemistry between the two leads, where most films play with the will-they-won’t-they formula, you never really feel like Kaz and Zoe are actually into each other, sadly a rom-com with not much rom.

That said, the film was a joy to watch. Emma Thompson is as delightful as she’s ever been, bringing a lot of belly-laughs with her portrayal as the well-meaning though slightly ignorant mum to Zoe. She’s joined by Shabana Azmi as Aiza Khan, Kaz’s mum and loving matriarch. Azmi and Thompson bring a lot of weight to the film with their experience, giving it the heft it needs in the more serious moments.

Zoe is desperate for a breakthrough in her career and in a meeting with two producers she pitches an insightful documentary into arranged marriages – “Love Contractually” she suggests as a title. Her producers are swayed but she still has to convince Kaz to be filmed, but after much persuasion (and exposition) he agrees. She follows him as he joins a matchmaking service for young Muslims, led by Asim Chaudhry (better known as Chabuddy G) as the enthusiastic but greasy matchmaker. The tension between what Kaz wants and what his parents want starts to appear, though he’s adamant they want the same things. Kaz navigates the dating scene, where the emphasis is just as much on dating the family as it is dating the girl.

As Zoe films all this for her documentary, the film itself luckily avoids using this to do ‘found footage’ which at this point feels tired and dull. Instead, it leans in on Zoe interviewing the couples around her and Kaz, to discover what it means to fall in love as opposed to growing into love. It’s a mature approach to dating and the disillusionment with finding a long-term partner. Juxtaposing the seemingly happy couples against Zoe’s own love life, with unfulfilling one-night stands and cringe-worth dates. It’s heavy-handed but familiar.

What’s Love Got to Do with It? is a loving blend of cultures and comedy, as an Asian-Brit it was hard not to love all the cultural references and clever wordplay. Brilliantly funny and well-written, it’s a fun comedy to watch, though I think while it lacks in chemistry it’s still an enjoyable film.

What’s Love Got to Do with It? is in UK cinemas on 24th February 2023.

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