Based on the true story of how stand up comic Kumail Nanjiana met his wife Emily V. Gordon. The Big Sick stars Kumail Nanjiana as himself, a Pakistan-born stand up comedian who falls for grad student Emily. What they thought would be a one night stand blossoms into a healthy and fun relationship, one that unfortunately ends when Emily discovers that Kumail has a responsibility to his Muslim parents to marry a Pakistani girl. When Emily is beset with a mysterious illness, she is put into a medically induced coma. Kumail navigates the medical crisis with Emily's parents and must decide between his family and his heart.
I've been a fan of Kumail Nanjiana (Silicon Valley) for years, and with him starring and writing this romantic comedy I really did expect to laugh a lot, but I didn't expect to be as moved or impressed as I was. The Big Sick isn't just one of the funniest romantic comedies I've seen in years, but also one of the smartest. The film tackles many fronts, including religion, cultural differences, relationships with parents and children, the life of a stand up comedian and ultimately the decision that Kumail had to make between pleasing his parents or following his heart. Kumail has had many bit parts in comedies over the past year and has always been the standout in films such as Central Intelligence and Fist Fight, but this should hopefully be his big breakout role. Not only is he hilarious but he delivers a layered and at times very emotional performance. Most likely because this is his true story, there's a real authenticity to his performance, he feels accessible in a way that many comedic leads do not.
The performances on a whole work phenomenally. Zoe Kazan (What If) is as lovable as ever and even though this is a true story where Emily does survive (the real Emily wrote the screenplay along with Kumail) I was constantly rooting for her to pull through even though I was aware of the outcome. Ray Romano (Ice Age) and Holly Hunter (Batman v Superman) are magnificent as Emily's parents. Emily's parents could have so easily become very one note characters, but they themselves are layered and compelling characters. They're not only suffering because of their daughter's medical situation but they're having marital issues also. Romano and Hunter feel like a real couple, their back and forth is believable and even the way they look at each other evokes a long lived but currently troubled marriage.
The Big Sick ultimately works because you end up falling in love with Emily and Kumail. Because this is a true story, there's an honesty to the whole film that just evokes such raw emotion and humour. There's such sincerity behind every line of dialogue whether it be a joke or not. Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris) juggles such a mix of tones with real grace. The subject matter doesn't seem best suited for comedy but it works because nothing is ever played just for a laugh. Everything is about developing character, relationships or making a comment on the cultural differences between Pakistan and America. The film isn't afraid to explore uncomfortable truths and I really respect it for that.
This is an incredibly sincere, heartfelt and intelligent comedy and quite possibly the best in the romantic comedy genre since (500) Days of Summer back in 2009. Much like that film, The Big Sick works because it doesn't shy away from the warts and blemishes that make love worth fighting for. The Big Sick is one of the best movies of the year and one I wholeheartedly recommend.
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