What's Love Got to Do with It? (2023)

What's Love Got to Do with It? (2023)


Love has never looked so joyless in this semi-passionate, tolerably funny romantic comedy



United Kingdom
English, urdu
Comedy, Romance
Alexander Owen, Alice Orr-Ewing, Asim Chaudhry
109 min


I’m not sure what’s more unbelievable, the chemistry between the characters or Lily James as a camerawoman—for the life of her, the girl cannot hold a camera still.

What it's about

Zoe (Lily James) wants to film her childhood friend Kaz (Shazad Latif) as he embarks on a modern-day arranged marriage, but ends up learning more about herself in the process.

The take

 As glad as I am to see a film celebrating the complex joys of interracial love and debunking the stigma of arranged marriages, I can’t help but wonder how and why a film about love got to be so dry and passionless. Is dating really this painfully awkward? Is marriage really this burdensome? Realistically, yes, but when you’re trying to make a point about true love supposedly trumping it all, including cultural differences and age-old traditions, then you should at least make it seem like the winner. The movie tries to have its cake and eat it too by serving us heaps of realism and fantasy on one plate, failing to understand that you only have to pick one to be palatable. “Love Contractually” is the title of Zoe’s documentary, but it’s also the name this movie should’ve gone with, seeing as how everyone acts like they’re obligated to be here. 

What stands out

I appreciate how the script doesn’t sensor offensive Boomer sensibilities, like when Kaz’s mother says she prefers “beige” Pakistani candidates over darker ones, or when Zoe’s mom says “You wouldn’t think they were Muslim” as a way to compliment Kaz’s family. However, I do wish they got more than just a slap on the wrists and a roll of the eyes for these comments. They’re played off as typical parent jokes, but they’re actually the type of microaggressive remarks that build up into something much more sinister and harmful in the long run. Leaving these as jokes is another instance of this romcom trying and failing to play with realism.

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