The Big Sick (2017, Dir: Michael Showalter, USA)
Life is complicated. Life is messy as hell. It would be easier if things went according to plan, be it your plan or someone else’s plan, but that’s just not the way it goes most of the time.
Love is a tricky bastard isn’t it? Just when you least expect it, the right one comes out of nowhere and shines a beam of light that illuminates all the shortcomings of how your life is constructed now, and how much better it will be with this person, and sometimes, those roadblocks are enormous but in the end love wins, it always does. That’s why we need romantic comedies sometimes, and yeah they can be predictable, but we are reminded that the path, the story, is the real juice here.
The Big Sick, a lovely, charming movie with a godawful title has plenty of “juice” it’s the true love story of Kumail Nanjiani and his real life wife Emily V. Gordon, played with unbelievable charm by Zoe Kazan, who “meet cute” as she heckles him at his regular stand up gig. He confronts her after the show and predictably they fall in love. What is not predictable is everything that happens from that point forward.
Kumail frequently dines with his traditional Pakistani family who believe in the tradition of arraigned marriages and every dinner features a young Pakistani woman who just happens to “drop by because they were in the neighborhood”. Never mind that Kumail’s parents live on a cul-de-sac. The family scene are warm and funny, especially Kumail’s brother played by Adeel Akhtar who spends a a fair amount of time challenging Kumail to grow a beard, like a real man.
Kumail no longer prays, questions his Muslim beliefs and upbringing and is love with a white woman, facts he does not share with this family because they will surely ostracize him, also per Pakistani tradition. To keep his family happy, he breaks up with Emily, and tells his family the lie that he is considering law school and may give up comedy.
Shortly after the breakup, Emily comes down with a mysterious aliment that requires her to be in a medically induced coma and Kumail rushes to her side, joined soon by her parents played perfectly by Ray Romano as Terry and Holly Hunter as Beth. The parents have heard of the break up and thank Kumail for being there but it is time for him to go, he hur their daughter and shouldn’t be around. He decides he’s going to stay anyway.
After a while Terry and Beth warm up to Kumail which starts the wonderful middle part of this film as Kumail starts to bond with, and win over Emily’s parents.
I have to say, until this film I never gave Ray Romano much thought. I knew he was funny, I knew he could act. But in this film he exposes such heart, such honesty in his role as the sometimes bumbling dad, that it would have stolen the film were it not for Holly Hunter.
Holly Hunter is magnificent here as Beth, showing love, humor, anger and fear sometimes in the same scene. I wont spoil it, but look for the scene where she confronts a heckler at one of Kumail’s stand up gigs. Holly Hunter reminding the world she is a cinematic bad ass.
At it’s core the film is about how one reconciles family. religious traditions and expectations when they conflict with your own heart and the courage to say “this is who I am, and this is who I have chosen to love”
The screenplay by Nanjiani and Gordon doesn’t have a false note in it, and how could it, its’s the story of their lives together.
Romantic comedies get little respect sometimes. They are perceived as light fare, or even worse tagged with the sexist term “chick flick” a phrase I have always hated, but good romantic comedies know that love comes with complexity, comes with problems to resolve, conversations to be had. Any good partnership requires one or both sides to give up something sometimes.
The Big Sick, even with its unfortunate title, is no mere romantic comedy.
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