What’s Love Got to Do with It?
by Hope Madden
Zoe (Lily James) is having trouble pitching her next documentary. The execs want something upbeat, so she spitballs about her childhood friend, Kazim (Shazad Latif), who’s decided to let his Pakistani parents arrange a marriage for him. Why doesn’t Zoe follow him through all the steps of marrying a stranger?
What will they call this documentary? Meet the Parents…First? My Big Fat Arranged Wedding?
They go with: Love, Contractually.
That’s actually a great nod, since Emma Thompson is in this movie. (And aside from the ’93 Tina Turner biopic, there is also a 2013 documentary called What’s Love Got to Do with It by Rohena Gera that follows eight people in India who’ve decided on arranged marriage. From what I can tell, this movie has no direct relation to that except that everyone is having trouble coming up with an original title.)
Thompson, by the way, is a hoot as Zoe’s mum because she’s a remarkable performer who elevates everything she’s in.
What’s Love… treads similar themes as Michael Showalter’s 2017 The Big Sick. It does not live up to that comparison, but what could? That film was brilliant, touching, authentic and hilarious. This one is safe.
Both films expose the conflict between falling in love and living up to a family’s expectations. WLGTDWI goes one step further by also watching Zoe’s struggle over whether to settle or live up to her own expectations of love.
Kazim’s choice stems from the fact that he’s not sure he even believes in love, or in “in love”, and he’s weary from trying. Meanwhile, Zoe sees herself as a fairy tale princess who can’t find the kind of love she feels she’s been promised. So, she repeatedly makes terrible, often drunken decisions that she immediately regrets in her search for her handsome prince.
There’s also a very big question about what to do with well-meaning but overbearing parents who continue to pressure you well into your thirties. And that’s a lot for one movie to cover. Director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age) keeps it warm – there really are no villains here – while Jemima Khan’s script offers messy, human characters you can identify with.
The point is, marry your best friend. Which is good advice, and Latif and James have a wonderful, lived-in friendship, but no real chemistry. The film does what it can to resolve the issues it raises, but that last gasp “will they or won’t they” felt more like “do I really want them to?”