Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Big Sick: Movie Review


Funny, heartfelt romantic comedy with real characters (literally).
The Big Sick explores several topics including the struggle of artists as they try to make it big, the clash of American and Pakistani cultures, relationships with in-laws, and how near-death experiences can change people and their loved ones, and it does all of this while being framed as a romantic comedy. Which is just one of the reasons it’s a good movie: an accessible and entertaining romantic comedy but approaches it from more interesting, and refreshing, view points. 2017

Directed by: Michael Showalter

Screenplay by: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan

It’s based on the real-life relationship of actor Kumail Nanjiani and writer and producer Emily V. Gordon, and I have to say I’m surprised there are so many significant and cinematic moments in their lives – a talented comedian and a therapist-turned-writer, it’s like they were literally born to share their story with us. I, for one, am glad they did. There was a lot in this movie which I never put a lot of thought into. Another reason this is a good movie: it provides a lot of reflection on how differences can come together.

Kumail Nanjiani stars as Kumail (himself). At the beginning of the film, he’s a struggling stand-up comedian trying to make a name for himself. He’s one of a handful of comedians who spend their evenings at the same club; some are friendly with one another, others are more competitively hostile, but all will joke about it, while they wait and hope for a talent agent to show up and take notice. In this group, there is one stand-out: Comedian Bo Burnham is Kumail’s friend and fellow stand-up compatriot CJ – he’s not just very funny, but adds a lot of introspection into backstage relationships.

Kumail Nanjiani as "Kumail" and Zoe Kazan as "Emily" in THE BIG SICK. Photo by Nicole Rivelli.
During one of his comedy sets, Kumail meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), a grad student at the time. Of course they have instant attraction, but they also have a decent witty repartee which carries throughout the movie. The other main aspect of Kumail is his Pakistani culture and relationship with his family. Every weekend he has dinner with his parents, brother and sister-in-law, and every time they sit down at the table, his mother just happens to have a young Pakistani woman drop-in to meet Kumail. Arranged marriages are commonplace in the culture, and in this movie, I loved Kumail’s light-hearted jabs at the institution. Yet another reason this is a good movie: it combines humour pointed at the Pakistani culture but also shows how difficult it was for Kumail to date a white woman while knowing it would destroy his family.

The title refers to a medically-induced coma which Emily is in for most of the movie. During this time, Kumail must navigate a relationship with her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) who know everything about Kumail (and don’t take kindly to how he juggled Emily and his family commitments), while he has kept everything a secret from his family. It’s during this time that the film best handles the comedic and dramatic back-and-forth. There are a lot of serious consequences at play, but the film keeps its audience in mind, and beautifully transitions to comedic moments. The main reason for this success is Ray Romano; since the early 2010s he has really matured away from a sitcom actor into one who has significant dramatic depth and still has excellent comedic timing. Hunter and Nanjiani both play off of him really well too.

The Big Sick has a lot to say about the clash of cultures and push and pull with family, and because it’s the story that Kumail and Emily have lived, there’s a genuine honesty to it which makes it more meaningful and dramatic. At the heart of this movie, it’s a romantic comedy, one that’s funny, heartfelt and with real characters (literally).
Best of 2017