Director: Michael Showalter
Rating: R (for language, including some sexual references.)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Date: June 23, 2017
Apatow Films, FilmNation Entertainment, Story Ink, and Lionsgate/Amazon Studios.
Written by: Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon
When you love a movie through and through, it is often hard to know where to begin in discussing it. Do you tell people about the best scenes? Do you discuss how great the writing is? Do you celebrate the atmosphere and the world the movie creates for you? The reaction in the crowd? The discussions afterwards?
Again, where do you begin?
Let’s start big and work our way down. The Big Sick is a movie I just want to show everyone I know. The movie earns your heart, your laughter, your tears, and pays you back tenfold with great moments you can talk about and share with those who have seen it.
Written by the husband and wife team of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the film documents their real-life story about dating, breaking up, and struggling with the reality of Emily’s sudden and severe lung infection that forces her into a medically induced coma for a period of time. To the couple’s credit, the film never panders to its audience, especially when Emily becomes sick. The film does such a wonderful job of setting up the world these two characters inhabit that we are on the journey right along with Kumail and Emily’s family, who leave their home in North Carolina, to be with her in Chicago, trying to make up for lost time.
Kumail plays, well, Kumail, and he is an Uber driver and struggling stand-up comic. He has surrounded himself with a trio of fledgling comics (Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, and Kurt Braunohler), who serve as a surrogate family. The grind is real for the comics, running through the same material night after night, but the love of performing and the potential of popping a crowd keeps them coming back again and again.
He meets Emily (Zoe Kazan, embodying Gordon’s character), after she heckles him during a set. After a going-through-the-motions one-night stand, each tell one another they are not looking to get into a relationship at the moment. Naturally, they keep running into one another and sparks start igniting. Several months into their relationship, each hold secrets that eventually become too big to overcome. And after an ugly fight, the proverbial “big sick” arrives, and Kumail is summoned to the hospital by a mutual friend. And then he meets Emily’s family.
The Big Sick does not shy away from showcasing people’s faults, fears, and vulnerabilities, and as a result, the film has a quiet, emotive power. Kumail is wrestling with his Pakistani heritage and being nearly 30 and not interested in settling down and starting a family. This is unnerving to his parents (Zenobia Shroff, Anupam Kher), who have taken it upon themselves to arrange a marriage for their son.
Nanjiani and Gordon set this up beautifully, returning to the Pakistani family’s dinner table again and again, as potential new wives always seem to arrive just after everyone sits down for dinner. As the film moves forward and Nanjiani is later forced to interact with Emily’s parents (Holly Hunter, Ray Romano), he finds himself caught between two worlds.
The Big Sick is witty, funny, endearing, bittersweet, honest and authentic. Initially, we are observers who then become invested in these characters and their lives. We bond with their struggles, challenges, and root for their wins and feel bad for their losses. The ensemble is wonderfully cast, Hunter and Romano are terrific in the film’s second half, Kazan shines in the first hour. Nanjiani steers us through both halves of the film, in a long overdue breakout performance that, if all is right in the world, should make him a big star.
Directed by Michael Showalter, who has a long history of working in television, both on and off screen, and made the charming Hello, My Name Is Doris last year, he delivers a quiet, contemplative film, full of charm and grace. Though a breakout turn for the veteran Nanjiani, this is not merely a vehicle for him, or even Kazan, but a true ensemble film that allows everyone a space to build and create multi-dimensional characters.
For all of my shouting from the rooftops about the film, even I must acknowledge that The Big Sick runs a little too long and by the end, falls into some repetitiveness. Those gaffes are almost fitting, because the film reminds us that life is imperfect. People are imperfect. And if a film this fantastic and terrific stumbles a bit when it’s time to exit the stage, all should be forgiven.
Clearly, this is one of 2017’s best films, a movie we should keep discussing through the end of the year and beyond. Nanjiani and Gordon simply told their story and they spoke their truth (with some dramatic flourishes of course).
A rich and deep comedy, the film speaks to adversity and confronting challenges, but also about the power of resolve and trusting your instincts. While the more personal elements of the story, specifically one’s Pakistani heritage and another’s medically induced coma may not relate to you personally, the film’s tone and inviting wit draws you in and you kind of don’t want to let these characters go when the movie fades to black.
SHOULD I SEE IT?
- This is a terrific, wonderful movie. See it as soon as you can.
- A breakout for Kumail Nanjiani is long overdue, but let’s also celebrate great work from Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, and pretty much the entire cast. This movie speaks about family in a clever and unique way and has a familial feel to it that cannot be understated.
- Will run you through emotionally and every moment is worth it.
- The Big Sick is too good to not recommend. I will say, if you are not someone who tolerates R-rated movies, then this one is out for you…sadly. It’s rated R for language though. Just. Words.
- Of the 4 negative reviews currently published on Rotten Tomatoes, someone complained that the movie was too pleasant. So, if you abhor pleasant things – Transformers is playing down the street.
- You find interracial dating deplorable, do not believe people can learn from their mistakes, and think movies should not be all, like, dramatic and stuff, ‘cuz that’s not entertaining. So, again, go see Transformers.