“The Big Sick” stars Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano. Released on June 23, 2017, the film is about a comedian who falls in love with a young white woman, but later discovers that she’s sent to the hospital for having an unknown flu.
The film is directed by Michael Showalter, who is a member of the sketch comedy trio Stella. He also directed The Baxter and Hello, My Name is Doris. Ever since the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival back in January, I have been hearing nothing but praise about it from a lot of critics. Now that it received a wide expansion last weekend, I decided to see what all the hype was about. Normally, I’m not that into romantic comedies, but I managed to see a few of them (mostly independent ones) that were actually quite good. After experiencing this latest romantic comedy for myself, I was quite surprised that for a film that has “sick” in the title, it actually offers a lot to make a rom-com fan feel more healthy than ever.
The concept of this film is loosely based on the real-life relationship between Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, with Nanjiani portraying himself and Zoe Kazan portraying Emily. Usually, I see plenty of biopics or fact-based stories that have actors playing film versions of real people or celebrities from the past, so it’s nice to see someone like Nanjiani play himself in the film. If you haven’t heard of Nanjiani, he’s been in several films as one of the supporting or cameo roles such as Hello, My Name is Doris and Fist Fight, as well as the upcoming Lego Ninjago Movie as one of the ninjas. He had plenty of shoes to fill in terms of his leading role, and he did not disappoint. He was absolutely brilliant from beginning to end, and his chemistry with Kazan and the rest of the cast shined as bright as the sun itself. It actually makes me wonder why he hasn’t been in that many leading roles in his career. Ray Romano was also a joy to watch as Terry and Holly Hunter delivered one of her best performances in her career as Beth. She was lovable, funny, and very engaging. Speaking of Romano, I’m actually quite pleased to see him in something outside of his Ice Age franchise and his popular sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, especially this. The way this story progresses, it somehow felt like any other romantic comedy that we’ve seen before, mostly from the film’s first act where it actually took a while to get the plot going. As it went on, it slowly transitions into something more and the direction that Michael Showalter took was both endearing and satisfying. Not only does it focus on the relationship between Kumail, Emily, and her parents, but it’s also about the complications of love and how it affects two people from different cultures, hence its use of cross-cultural themes and references. Thanks to producer Judd Apatow, the film offered an impressive mixture of comedy and drama without any signs of imbalance. There were plenty of moments that made me laugh out loud and there were also some moments that were just as heartwarming as any other romantic comedy. The film’s comedy involves plenty of R-rated language, sexual references, and jokes that may offend some people, so yeah, don’t bring your kids to this one. Aside from its first act, I really didn’t see anything else wrong with the film, but I can say that the pacing felt a bit slow in some scenes, but if you like slow movies, you’ll have no problem liking this one.
Overall, with its strong cast, Showalter’s direction, some well-written laughs, and its respectable use of cross-cultural themes, “The Big Sick” is a big cure for “Big Budget Summer Blockbuster-itis”. In the middle of the summer movie season filled with superheroes, sequels, film adaptations, and reboots, this heartwarming and hilarious tale of cross-cultural love comes into play and offers everything that a rom-com fanatic could ever want, plus a whole lot more for those outside of its target audience. This is another unique summer gem that I think should get some recognition during awards season. If it’s playing at a theater near you, it’s definitely worth a look at.