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Movie Review: The Big Sick (2017)

Directed by: Michael Showalter
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Ray Romano, Holly Hunter, Anupam Kher, and Zenobia Shroff
Release date: June 30 (limited), July 14 (wide)
Running time: 119 mins
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Dark Comedy

It’s strange to say, but The Big Sick is likely to be the best romantic comedy of this year.

The Big Sick follows Kumail Nanjiani (starring as himself) and a woman named Emily Gordon (Zoe Kazan). Kumail is an Uber driver by day (mostly) and stand-up comic at night, Emily is a graduate student training her way to become a therapist. He’s trying to make it big all the while sleeping on an air mattress in an apartment that’s a step above a college room. One night during his comedy show he gets inadvertently heckled by Emily, and thus begins their budding romance. Kumail and Kazan have incredible on-screen chemistry from the first moment they interact with each other. Their deadpan delivery of “not dating” is juxtaposed by the sweet moments they share on-screen, and eventually they’re in a real deal relationship.

Where most rom-coms fall into cliches, and go into the big moments in a relationship, they don’t follow the nitty gritty everyday trials and tribulations of the modern couple — like, finally being okay with taking a shit in your significant others apartment, sharing each others favorite movies (there’s a line in there by Emily “I love it when men test me on my taste“, scathing volcanic levels even if it’s a quick crack of the whip), etc. The movie crosses cultural, societal and generational gaps. Kumail’s parents (played by Anupam Kher, and Zenobia Shroff) are devote Pakistani Muslims, who constantly introduce women to Kumail during their family dinners in an attempt to begin an arranged marriage.

Later on in the film, Emily gets sick, hence the title of the movie, and falls into a coma. Enter Emily’s parents, Terry, played by Ray Romano (who did a surprisingly great job in a dramatic role), and Beth, played by Holly Hunter. They’re two people taking a traumatic experience very differently, Terry who is shown to be more level headed, and Beth who is the more angry, frightened mother. There’s little moments in the hospital, like covering Emily in her childhood blanket, that make those types of scenes very real, a special cocktail mix of hell and anxiety that you can truly empathize with.

During this time, Kumail is very much on borders in his life. Kumail is caught in extremes with his American and Pakistani identities, his relationship with his family, between Islam and Agnosticism, whether or not he should continue working as a comic during this time. He’s unsure of a lot of things going on in his life, but if there’s one thing he is sure of is that he can’t tell his family about the white woman he’s in love with lest it ruin his family. All of this comes to a head later on in the film, and I’d rather not spoil it for you.

This film covers so much, so well. It’s dexterous in its delivery, thanks to the strength of the script, and the actors involved. Emily isn’t in about half the film, but she reverberates through it’s entirety, which says so much about her character and her performance. In any case, this dark rom-com is one I think will resonate with a lot people, in and out of relationships, and is for people with dual identities. There is no moral right or wrong in this film, and that’s one of this film’s greatest strengths. Catch The Big Sick while you can, it’s absolutely worth your time and money.


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