The Big Sick

THEBI1_2017Director Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer) teams up with comedy favourite, Judd Apatow in this original and charming romantic comedy. The Big Sick lures audiences in with gooey, romantic squishiness – before delving into more serious (but still hilarious) territory. Based on the story of the film’s writers (Pakistani-American comedian/writer Kumail Nanjiani and producer/writer Emily Gordon) The Big Sick offers a realistic portrayal of the beginnings of a relationship – complete with love, lies, coma and an air bed.

Kamail plays a younger version of himself: a wannabe stand-up comedian. He’s heckled one night by Emily, played wonderfully by a doe-eyed Zoe Kazan. What Kamail keeps from Emily is his internal anguish over admitting to his family – to whom arranged marriages are the way things are traditionally done – that he is in love with a non-Muslim woman that his mother hasn’t chosen. Not only is The Big Sick clever in its balance of comedy while at the same time highlighting more serious subjects, it’s also extremely relevant and is likely to relate to and educate viewers. The film – specifically Kamail’s odd one-man-show – ties in neatly with the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India; but more so, closely examines the life of a young man struggling to maintain his strict family traditions in contemporary American society.

The Big Sick is a breath of fresh air to its genre and something that audiences deserve much more often…

Shortly after Kamail and Emily break up – following Emily’s realisation that Kamail has kept her a secret from his family – Emily is sent to hospital with an infection and put into a medically induced coma. This happens relatively early on in the film, leaving viewers wondering what might be coming next. This was a rom-com between Kamail and Emily, right? Well yes, in way. However, what takes the place of a love story between two young singles is Kamail’s relationship with Emily’s parents and at the same time, his relationship with his own family and culture. The scenes around the Nanjiani family dinner table are some of the funniest; as his relentless mother (Zenobia Shroff) invites potential wives over to meet Kamail but to no avail. Similar, though less exuberant scenes are shared between Kamail and Emily’s parents Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano). The story evolves into Kamail’s unintentional woo-ing of Beth and Terry as their love for Emily gives them common ground to build upon. Hunter and Romano both have their moments here: all characters hold their own when it comes to comic timing and are offered equal shares of the script’s drollery.

Tension still lingers throughout the second half as Emily’s health is touch and go. With comic interjections – Kamail using Emily’s finger to unlock her phone while in a coma and his response to Terry’s question regarding 9/11: “we lost 19 of our best guys” – makes even the darker subjects humorous. The Big Sick shares similarities with Apatow’s Funny People (2009), in the sense that it follows the stand-up scene but also in its understated and realistic portrayal of relationships – while at the same time building upon and fleshing out the “American stand-up” storyline; making it more well-rounded and authentic. The film offers clever and well placed observations, without making any grand emotional statements; keeping the drama real throughout. The fact that the premise is taken from the co-writers’ lives adds to the film’s ingenuity. There are lulls at times which are quickly recovered but don’t go unnoticed, however both Nanjiani and Kazan’s performances overshadow any minor shortcomings in the script. The Big Sick is a breath of fresh air to its genre and something that audiences deserve much more often – showing Apatow at his finest and Showalter as a director we want to see more of. Fingers crossed that this is only the beginning.

One Response to “The Big Sick”
  1. I am surprised that it wasn’t essential to reference Ken Loach in Æ Fond Kiss…

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