What’s Love Got To Do With It is a charming tale about love through its different cultural contexts. Set across London and Lahore, Zoe, a documentary filmmaker (Lily James) decides to film her friend and neighbour Kazim’s (Shazad Latif) arranged marriage to the seemingly shy Maymouna (Sajal Ali).
The cross-cultural romantic comedy is predictable but entertaining with its lighthearted tonality yet persistence to offer something new in a genre which comes with a strict style guide. The twist, undoubtedly, is retelling the narrative with a diverse cast.
And interestingly, it’s the stellar cast of the film that makes it that much more frothy and fun. Kazim’s mother played by Shabana Azmi, manages to be equal parts nosy and endearing. At the same time, Emma Thompson’s portrayal of Cath (Zoe’s mom) is amusing and likeable.
The main leads of the rom-com bring about an effortless doe-eyed spark that is often found in this specific school of films. On the other hand, the debate and discussions between the two hope to bring to light their different cultural backgrounds; it’s safe to say, whatever comes to the fore isn’t too insightful that it strays from the trappings of the genre.
If the film intended to be profound, then it failed miserably. It glossed over the point it was trying to make and why it was trying to make it in the first place. And perhaps the intention was to question the different ideals of love, but the triumph of the Western ideal seemed like a no-brainer.
This is not to say, writer Jemima Khan doesn’t attempt to paint a holistic picture of both the overarching perspectives, but it ultimately doesn’t dig too deep.
The film shines because it has the trappings of a stellar rom-com; two good-looking leads, an excellent supporting cast and a story engaging enough to hold the audience's attention. Netflix undoubtedly attempted to revive the dying genre with films like Set It Up, Wedding Season and many others. But What’s Love Got To Do With It knows exactly what it’s doing with its Harry Met Sally-esque blueprint.
It is comforting as most rom-coms ideally are but the film also tries to bring multiculturalism into its context in a way that does not seem forced. The film isn’t the first to foray into the concept of family-dictated arranged marriages, but Kapur’s lens is sensitive and full of warmth.
In the end, though, James and Shazad will have you rooting for them. They are earnest and wholesome. It’s a definite slow burn. And it’s disarmingly sweet to watch the pair acknowledge their love for each other through the course of the film.
It might seem like the film is trying to be painstakingly nuanced in a genre that does not give the leeway for the same. But Kapur works with the tropes of the rom-com skillfully. The film isn’t a discourse on cross-cultural romance, yet it does mull over the idea of love quite a bit, but to what end, that’s hard to tell.