I’m always happy when I find a fun, unique rom-com.
I frequently find myself coming back to rom-coms if I’m looking for something relaxing and charming. It’s not exactly the most innovative genre; after all, there are only so many ways you can show two people coming together. The overexposure of the genre has led to pushback over the years, an idea I’ve tried to ignore as I remember similar arguments about slasher films. However, I find that the strength of a good romantic comedy comes more out of its likable character and chemistry, not necessarily for forcibly subverting tropes. That was the case for American-ish, which made up for its relatively predictable plot with great performances and likable characters.
American-ish focuses on three sisters: Sam (Aizzah Fatima), Maryam (Salena Qureshi), and Ameera (Shenaz Treasury) as they navigate romance, family life, tradition, and relationships with their own cultural identity while living in Jackson Heights, NY. American-Ish is the first Muslim romantic comedy directed by an American Muslim woman (Iman Zawahry and co-written by her and Fatima). This perspective really helps the comedy stand out, as it’s specific to the real experiences of American-Muslim women. Since all three sisters are in different stages of their lives (between high school and early 30’s) and have different relationships with Muslim traditions, the comedy always feels fresh, making it funnier.
The performances from all the sisters are great. Aizzah Fatima and Shenaz Treasury deliver nuanced, likable performances that feel very real. Salena Qureshi is also very charismatic, showcasing charm and depth; I’d say she’s an actress to watch as she further’s her career. Some of the side characters give performances that, while frankly pretty one-note, still deliver. Gabriel Jackson is charming as Godfrey, who befriends Ameera, and George Wendt is hilarious as the cartoonishly Republican blowhard politician that Sam does PR for.
My main criticism is that while the story is nice, it’s also pretty predictable. You can tell relatively early the arcs these characters will go through, and the film doesn’t do much to subvert those expectations. Still, I appreciate the nuanced ideas the filmmakers grapple with regarding balancing family, tradition, and personal goals. The film handles the topic with nuance, and since I cared about the characters and wanted to see their story, the more predictable parts of the story didn’t bother me.
Overall, American-Ish is an enjoyable film that crafts its own unique identity to help it stand out among similar films. Its diverse lens allows for clever jokes and realistic characters to come to the forefront. It’s not too heavy, it’s not too light, it’s just a fun movie based around likable characters we don’t get to see as often as we should.