What’s originality got to do with it when choosing the title of your movie? Clearly nothing for writer Jemima Khan (former professional cricketer and former Pakistani president Imran Khan’s ex-wife) and director Shekhar Kapur (ELIZABETH) who “borrow” very heavily from the title of the 1993 biopic about music legend Tina Turner. Okay, that one doesn’t have a question mark in the title. Even so, as my colleague and I sat down last week to watch WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?, we riffed off of each other what title they could have come up with instead of this one. My contribution was “My Big, Fat Pakistani Arranged Marriage” and, wouldn’t you know, they used that one in the film too!
Lack of originality aside, the story revolves around friends from childhood, Zoe (Lily James, THE DIG; YESTERDAY) and Kaz (Shazad Latif, TV’s STAR TREK: DISCOVERY), who, as Kaz says, may have lived next door to each other in London for many years but still lived worlds apart. Now a doctor in his early 30s, Kaz has decided to opt for an arranged marriage and he goes with his parents to see Mo, (Asim Chaudhry, THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN; WONDER WOMAN 1984), a matchmaker who sets him up with Maymouna (Sajal Aly), a pretty and young lawyer who lives in Pakistan. Zoe, who is a documentary filmmaker, thinks that Kaz’s journey to the altar would make for interesting subject matter for her next movie, so she convinces him and his family to agree to be filmed. When Kaz and Maymouna agree to get married, both Zoe and her mother, Cath (Emma Thompson, CRUELLA; LAST CHRISTMAS), fly off to Lahore to take part in the festivities. Once there, Zoe, who was always averse to being in a relationship, realizes that she has feelings for Kaz. It might be too late for her though.
To no one’s surprise, it’s never too late. It’s a romcom, after all. But predictability and the lack of originality are not what’s wrong with WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT? It’s as dull as yesterday’s mutton karah, and Emma Thompson clearly knew it when the cameras started rolling because she goes to town with her character and provides the film’s only comic relief. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work and her wacky humour wears thin very quickly. To its credit though, it’s nice to see people of colour on the screen who are front and center, rather than being the story’s inclusive wallpaper. I applaud Khan, who had her own big, fat Pakistani marriage (though not arranged) in 1995, for shining the spotlight on a group of people who have been underrepresented or worse, misrepresented, on screen so far.
Both James and Latif have good chemistry together, and that goes a long way to making this film barely tolerable. Compared to the other romcom, MAYBE I DO, that is playing here right now though, this is MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING.
WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT? is playing in Hong Kong now. If you’re looking for a light and inoffensive film to watch with your partner tonight, you can do far worse than this one.
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