Title: The Big Sick
MPAA: Rated R for language including some sexual references
Director: Michael Showalter
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano
Synopsis: Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and grad student Emily Gardner fall in love but struggle as their cultures clash, and an unexpected event threatens to change their lives completely.
The tagline for Michael Showalter’s hit comedy The Big Sick simply reads “An Awkward True Story.” I think that is what best sums up this romantic comedy gem that was a big hit at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and should be a sleeper towards awards season. Showalter directed the film, but the most credit should be given to comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his real-life wife Emily Gardner, who co-wrote the film with Nanjiani. Their real-life story of how they met, which is what the whole film is based on, is truly something special, that’s not only funny and sweet, but yes, very awkward.
The film is produced by comedy giant Judd Apatow, and certainly has that Apatow feel to it that he has made him very successful with his previous films. Apatow, who has directed and produced hit comedies like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Bridesmaids always tends to make comedies that do more than just make people laugh. His films always seem to speak about some important social issues and heavy themes of adulthood and responsibility. The Big Sick is no different. This film does a great job of comparing cultures and showing what happens when two completely different cultures clash. The movie moves freely where it is never trying to send a specific message. Instead it just simply tells a story about these specific characters who are surprisingly very relatable despite their unique traits and situation they have fallen into.
The movie stars Kumail Nanjiani who plays himself in the context of the story, whereas his wife, Emily, is portrayed by an up-and-coming actress named Zoe Kazan. I have never seen Kazan in anything before this, but I found her to be genuinely whimsical and a very impressive dramatic talent when she was tasked to do so. She’s a multi-talented actress that I think has a bright future ahead of her. Nanjiani on the other hand, was clearly the weaker “actor” out of the two, but I found his performance to be surprisingly very authentic and moving at times. The fact that this is a story that he actually lived through and wrote must have a lot to do with that. Also the actors that played the family members of Nanjiani were all great and very funny. I believed every second of their screen time that they were all related. However, at the end of the day, the two actors that stole the entire show were Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. Yes, I said Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. This unlikely pair impractically made a perfect married couple, and I found their characters to be both very fascinating. They play the parents of Emily, and Hunter played the strong-willed mother perfectly, and Romano played the more vulnerable father with ease. I was really blown away with both of their performances, and found that the movie reached it’s highest points when these two characters were involved. This is very shocking, just because on the surface this is just a standard romantic comedy, where the parents of one of the romantic leads usually are just bland and forgettable in most other romantic comedies, but in this film the parents of Emily soar and steal every scene their in. This allowed for the film to go to places that most other comedies wouldn’t dare to go.
This film doesn’t really add anything visually to the table. The directing and cinematography are just average. Like most American comedies nowadays, this film is mostly about the writing and acting. The camera is just there to capture the actors one frame at a time. Which for most movies is a disservice, but with this film is irrelevant. Structurally it has a pretty straight forward, three-act, plot that follows what a lot of other romantic comedies does, however the characters and themes it tackles are very unique and fresh. It is certainly safe to say that there has never been an American comedy with a Pakistani comedian in the lead, and The Big Sick really takes advantage of this unique situation and shows us the exclusive scenarios that come out from its diverse cast of characters. Very similar to Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, for those who have watched the hit Netflix original series.
The writing is very strong and is not only very funny at times, but also very emotional. This film is able to find the humor in some very tragic and serious situations that the story puts its characters into, which is very difficult to pull off, but The Big Sick does it in ways that are very impressive. The jokes are also very sharp and edgy. There’s terrorist jokes and even a 9-11 joke that just might be the funniest joke in the film. In our 21st century political climate, this film is defiantly a breath of fresh air, and I think that many people will agree and find it very amusing and even emotional at times.
Overall, The Big Sick is a very daring and fearless romantic comedy that while lacks in visuals, plenty makes up for in acting, writing, and its unique plot. Many people will find the film very humorous, but also very moving as well. The characters are very likable, and despite their differences ethnically, very relatable as well. No matter what age or race you are, everyone goes through the same complications and dilemmas in life. I personally found this film very moving, and really latched on to the films universal message of how good things can come out of dreadful and terrifying situations. Also you can never accomplish things on your own. The best ways to get through terrible situations are to latch on to people who are going through the exact same thing you are. Many people will find similar or different things they lock on to and relate with. I think its one of the best written films of the year, and wouldn’t be surprised at all to see it be nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards, and possibly a Best Picture nomination to boot. It’s a must watch for anyone who is interested in seeing a familiar genre told in a very unique way, and is one of the best comedies in years. My grade for this film is: