Late to see it, but I’m so glad I did. This makes Ali’s Wedding look like a Nicholas Sparks adaptation.
The Big Sick (2017) is a romantic comedy written by couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, and directed by Michael Showalter. It stars Nanjiani as himself, a Pakistani-born comedian trying to make a living in Detroit who begins dating Emily (Zoe Kazan) behind his conservative parent’s backs. But when she contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail is forced to confront her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) and his family’s expectations.
Its weird that we’ve gotten two films in the same year that follow middle-eastern young adults who are torn between arranged marriage and another girl while also subsequently lying to their family but ultimately being accepted in the end. Not a trend I expected. And while that bodes fantastically for representation in Hollywood, The Big Sick accomplishes so much more than that. Many have heralded this film – and rightfully so – as one of the best romantic comedies of all time and honestly its hard for me to disagree.
While I lament this isn’t necessarily a fresh story, the way its told more than makes up for it. The film is utterly effortless in everything its trying to achieve – its funny, touching and endearing all while not even trying to be. The comedy in particular feels so natural and authentic, almost as if its built into the very DNA of the movie itself. It easily mimics the light jabbing and amusing exchanges of real people with clear, deliberate jokes that are absurdly hilarious and it all lands perfectly.
But not only is funny, but the way it explores contemporary ideas is so earnest and pure. While it touches on serious issues such as racism, arranged marriage and clashing cultures, it does it with such a deft touch that its always real without being overly confronting or patronising. And while this isn’t a sob-fest in the traditional sense, when it wants to make you feel, you will feel. This movie has so much drama and pathos and is so endearingly likeable that not only will it have you laughing till the end, but also thinking about it long after the movie’s over.
And the performances! Everyone is exceptional in their respective roles, even if the heart always remains Kumail. He’s a great actor – as good comedians tend to be – and not only is he perpetually funny, but he also manages to flex his dramatic muscles while trying to tell a story that is clearly very personal to him. His chemistry with Kazan is infectious too, and almost had me thinking she was his real wife (note: she’s not). Even her parents, which I initially assumed were going to be minor roles, steal the spotlight on several occasions. Holly Hunter is as solid as always, but Ray Romano really surprised me with how funny he could be. Its a very different type of comedy from Kumail, but it still meshes incredibly well with the tone of the movie, and his turned out to be a real standout performance.
If I had to nitpick a flaw, it would be the movie loses quite a bit of steam in the last 10-20 minutes. It gets to a point that feels like a natural end, but then it keeps going… and going… to ultimately end rather abruptly. Its the one point where the structure of the movie fails somewhat, and could’ve been fixed easily by trimming/cutting a few scenes in that period. Its not a major issue, but does mean the movie’s ending is unfortunately a little muted.
But aside from that I have nothing but positive things to say about the The Big Sick. Its a personal story that has been brought to life with such earnest passion and great craft to back it up. Funny, touching, bittersweet and simply a fantastic movie, The Big Sick is likely to go down as the new standard for modern romantic comedies.
General Audiences: Must-see
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
Cinema-sobbers: Highly Recommended