Ever since I heard about it, I’d been looking forward to seeing The Big Sick, and I’m glad to say that it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a funny and touching romantic comedy, which explores intercultural romance as well as the effect of unexpected illness on everyone involved.
The Big Sick stars Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and Zoe Kazan (Love, Love, Love) and is based on a true story, with the script written by Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon. The movie builds on the early days of their non-traditional relationship and the impact on that relationship of his Muslim family’s expectation that he will have a traditional arranged marriage. The movie, to a certain extent, follows the typical romantic comedy formula, but then Emily falls ill with a mystery illness. The course of the story is altered by her being put into a medically-induced coma while doctors try to save her life and figure out what’s wrong with her.
I’m a big admirer of Zoe Kazan and her work, having discovered her on Netflix a few years ago. She wrote Ruby Sparks, which she starred in with long-time boyfriend Paul Dano, about a writer who writes his dream girl and makes her real, only to find that having absolute control over someone is not so great. She was also in The F Word (or What If) with Daniel Radcliffe and in In Your Eyes about a cross-country psychic connection. And she is quite fearless on Twitter and in other media in expressing her opinions.
I had a bit of trouble getting into The Big Sick at the beginning, not least because of the woman who insinuated herself next to me, despite there being plenty of alternate seats in the theatre. She decided I must want conversation; she laughed long and loudly in a high-pitched voice; and she gasped audibly when anything unexpected happened (she didn’t know Zoe’s character would be put into a coma?!?). Maybe I’m just anti-social, but I really wanted to get fully sunk into the movie!
The beginning is to me a bit reminiscent of the Seinfeld TV show, with the interaction between the young comics and the bits of stand-up comedy inserted into the flow. (I wasn’t really a Seinfeld fan.) But I was also really pleased that, unlike some of Judd Apatow’s other movies (Bridesmaids; Trainwreck) this movie wasn’t filthy — profanity and such, but not filthy. (Nothing wrong with a little filth now and then, but somehow those other movies make me feel that I must have an old-fashioned sense of humour.)
Once Zoe Kazan became a big part of the story, I was more into it. She and Kumail Nanjiani are really cute together and have great chemistry. They are funny, but they also play the emotional parts really well. Of course, very soon she has to play a comatose person (excellently by the way 😂), but we do get to see her again later on in the movie.
Some of the scenes that made me smile the most were the weekly family dinners where Nanjiani’s mother, played delightfully by Zenobia Shroff, tries to match him up with various young ladies. “I wonder who that can be?” and “Oh look who just dropped in!” at each dinner. The tension between what the family wants and what Nanjiani himself wants is made quite evident, without him being able to voice it in their presence.
When Emily is placed in a coma, her parents (played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) come to town. I’ve never been a Holly Hunter fan, but I have to say that she stole the show and was smart-mouthed and hilarious! Romano was great too, with his deadpan delivery. They are in a couple of the funniest scenes in the movie, which play on some peoples’ perceptions of Muslims. In one, the father innocently (and ignorantly) asks how Nanjiani feels about 9/11, and in another, the mother defends Nanjiani from a heckler making suggestions of terrorist connections. Doesn’t sound funny, I know, but trust me, it is perfectly done!
In addition to the comedy, the drama is well done too by all of the actors. In fact, there were two parts that actually brought tears to my eyes! The medical drama is handled well, although as this was not really a disease-focused movie, I was left wanting to know more about the diagnosis. (There is always Google, for people like me who are fascinated with medical diagnoses and want to find out more!)
I do have one complaint, which I suppose is due to editing. Several times, when Nanjiani is filmed from behind, it is completely obvious that his lips are saying something different than the dialogue we are hearing. Very distracting.
The movie wraps up nicely, ending in a satisfying way, and I left the theatre smiling. It’s nice to see an independent film doing well at the box office too. Overall The Big Sick is a film that I really recommend.