Emily (Zoe Kazan) and Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) in The Big Sick
Wow, what a breath of fresh air is The Big Sick. It is truly unlike any romantic movie I have seen in some time, probably the best since 2009’s 500 Days of Summer. I sat there watching the movie, realizing I had no idea where it would lead me, because it does not follow the cliché plot points of other movies in the genre. True, part of it could be because it is based on the true story of how Kumail Nanjiani met his wife Emily V. Gordon, but since they both wrote the script (and what a script!), it is clear it was close to their hearts.
Kumail plays himself, a struggling wannabe stand up comedian in downtown Chicago. We get some great looks at what stand-ups are like moments before they go on stage (one being described as “Daniel-Day Lewis, except he sucks”. In the audience, he gets a heckle from a member, who is Emily (Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of Elia). To say that they have great chemistry is a gross understatement.
The problem is that Kumail’s family is from Pakistan, so it is custom for him to marry a girl of his race. Every night at dinner, his mother (Zenobia Shroff) has to answer the door, because she has “casually” invited a woman over for dinner who happened to be walking by (Kumail keeps a box full of the woman his mother has tried to set her up with). He is also reminded by his brother Naveed (Adeel Akhtar) that their mother and father (Anupam Kher) will kick Kumail out of the family if he decides to marry a girl from another race.
Not long after an argument between Kumail and Emily, Kumail gets a call that Emily is in the hospital with an unknown disease that forces Emily to be put into a medical induced coma. During that time, Kumail meets Emily’s parents Beth and Terry (the perfectly cast Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.) Beth is clearly a bit more high-strung than Terry (who keeps notes at every meeting and discussion they have with Emily’s doctors). I will let you find out how outrageous Terry’s advice on love is that he tells Kumail.
The relationships that Kumail makes with all the characters in the movie is one of the best things about the film. Still, the strong point is the relationship he has with Emily’s parents. There is one scene where, in the hospital cafeteria, Terry invites Kumail to sit with him and his wife. The conversation they have is one I will not mention a word of, except to say it still has me laughing days after I saw the movie. Some may find the dialogue in that scene to be a little too risky for humor, but that is not why we laugh at it. We laugh at it because of the awkwardness of the situation.
Parents, the R rating is clearly justified. There is no nudity or sex scenes (some making out and characters waking up in bed after sex), but the film is rated R mainly for swearing. A lot of swearing (some sexual). Mature High School and above only.
Something that is very clear about The Big Sick is the fact that it clearly has a lot of scenes that tug at the heart. It is not just the fact that we fear for certain characters, but that we have sensed they have grown as people over the course of the events of the movie. That alone is essential to any film genre.
Overall: Four and a Half Stars ****1/2