What’s Love Got To Do With It? Is the latest from Working Title, the studio that shot the British rom-com to international success with Four Weddings and a Funeral, Briget Jones, and Love Actually. Charming as they may be, these films have received a certain amount of flak for their predominant whiteness…writer Richard Curtis even admitted that the lack of diversity in Love Actually makes him ‘feel a bit stupid’.
So it makes sense to release a movie that adds a helpful dash of diversity. On the face of it, Shekhar Kapur’s movie has a doozy of a concept, taking a modern-day look at arranged marriages among Muslims in London. Does this traditional approach still have merit today, and is the Western ideal of ‘love at first sight’ unrealistic?
That’s what our white protagonist Zoe (Lily James) is keen to find out when she discovers her childhood friend Kazim ( Shazad Latif) is taking this route. She asks to follow the process in the form of a documentary. It’s clear, however, that her professional approach as an award-winning filmmaker disguises her personal feelings.
While the concept is certainly fresh, the film, unfortunately, doesn’t work. The main reason behind this is the total lack of chemistry between the leads. Lily James does her absolute best, giving a hugely committed performance, but the screenplay barely fleshes out her relationship with Kazim.
Shazin Latif fails to give that already bland character any sense of charisma. While he’s a good deal of fun as clueless hipster Clem Fandango in Toast of London, Latif’s not got enough star quality to carry a feature film. At least, not yet.
Meanwhile, the screenplay is jumbled. Screenwriter Jemima Khan throws in a few gimmicks, from ‘talking head’ interviews, to fairy-tale analogies, but none of them click. There’s also a huge amount of naivety in its depiction of documentary filmmaking. Zoe’s slap-dash approach seems closer to a high schooler than the award-winning professional she apparently is.
Asim Chundry brings some much-needed levity as Mo, a tackless matchmaker, but the rest of the cast doesn’t fare so well. Kazim’s family is underwritten, while Emma Thompson borders dangerously close to self-parody as Zoe’s ditzy mum.
Ultimately, What’s Love GoTo Do With It? Has to be regarded as a noble failure. Any film that promotes multiculturality should be applauded, but this is a rom-com that fails at both romance and comedy.
An intriguing premise is let down by jumbled execution and the lack of spark between its leads.