From Director Michael Showalter and a screenplay by Emily V. Gordon and star Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick is a romantic comedy of a different type as the characters overcome not only their own neuroses, but also cultural and health demands as well. Is the film worth your time?
The story is based on the true story of how Nanjiani and Gordon met in real life. Nanjiani plays Kumail (duh), a struggling comedian in Chicago’s stand-up circuit. One night after a set, he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), a graduate student looking to become a therapist. The two click instantly, but Kumail keeps Emily a secret from his parents, Azmat (Anupam Kher) and Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff), and his brother, Naveed (Adeel Akhtar). His family desires him to marry a Muslim Pakistani woman in an arranged marriage and his mother is constantly setting him up with interviews. Kumail is suitably Americanized and is not religious at all, so he sees no point in marrying someone he doesn’t know. Unfortunately, he also lacks the courage to tell his parents this. So, when Emily discovers that Kumail has a file of all the Pakistani women his mother has tried to set him up with, she understandably loses her shit. They break up, but Kumail is brought back into her life when Emily has to be hospitalized with a mysterious infection. And once she’s placed in a medically-induced coma, that’s when he meets her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter). Let the hilarity ensue!
The Big Sick is an absolutely hilarious film that has a lot of emotion and should touch even the coldest of hearts. The script is very clever and Nanjiani is an affable lead. I’ve liked him in pretty much everything he’s done and he knocks this one out of the park. My only issue with the film is that it feels like it runs a little long. It was produced by Judd Apatow and even though it doesn’t run nearly as long as some of his directorial efforts, it’s definitely long for a comedy. I think part of this comes from the fact that this is a true story and Nanjiani and Gordon may have wanted to get the entire story in there the way it actually happened. There were parts that felt like scenes could have been merged or cut for time and nothing would have been lost. However, this is a minor gripe. The movie’s humor and charm more than make up for any quibbles.
The cast here is amazing. Nanjiani is great, but again, he’s playing himself. Despite that fact, he’s a compelling main character. In a lot of films, characters with his dilemmas feel forced or fake, but the fact that you know this is a true story works for the movie more than against it. Kazan does great with the scenes she has—I say it like that, because she’s in a coma for half the film. She and Nanjiani have an easy chemistry that makes the audience root for them to get together. Shroff and Kher are great as Kumail’s mother and father. Their interactions feel real and natural. Also, it was great to see Kher again as I loved him as Cliff in Silver Linings Playbook. Akhtar is also very funny and shares some great scenes with Nanjiani. Romano and Hunter are old pros and bring that excellence to their performances as Emily’s parents. The evolution of their relationship with Kumail is just magical. I should also give kudos to Aidy Bryant, Bo Burnham, and Kurt Braunohler, who all play Kumail’s stand-up buddies. They all have their moments to shine as much of the action takes place at the comedy club where they perform.
Overall, The Big Sick is a fantastic romantic comedy—maybe one of the best ever produced. It provides a unique point of view as well as very unique circumstances as to how the characters work toward getting together. It’s funny and sweet with likable leads, which is what we want from films of this genre. Definitely see it if it’s playing in your area.