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Parental Warning/Heads Up!: This film has a good chunk of adult jokes, cursing, and might not be suitable for younger viewers. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Thanks for reading this.
A genre I find struggling and stumbling across the finish line many times are films of the comedy/romance genre. Sure, there are plenty of films with great romantic chemistry between characters, but films in the comedy/romance genre don’t tend to have a lot of variety to them, and while there are plenty of classics in the genre, not many know how to keep it fresh and interesting. At worst, most romantic comedies tend to come off very cookie cutter, and on the rare occasion, unintentionally come off as the characters being really terrible people. It’s tough, since you want to have an amazing story, or a very well-executed story with characters you want to invest your time into and want to get together. I definitely don’t find romance-focused films to have a lot of rewatchability, but I have definitely found a few that make me want to say “play it again!” What films am I talking about? For this review, it’s the 2017 hit The Big Sick, which was directed by Michael Showalter, produced by Judd Apatow and Barry Mendel, and written by Emily V Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani.
The Big Sick talks about the real life story of how our star Kumail Nanjiani is a Pakistani standup comedian in Chicago. While trying to get his big break, he meets who would be his future wife Emily V. Gordon, who in this film is named Emily Gardner, played by Zoe Kazan. They hit it off, and become romantically connected, while he has to deal with his family trying to hook him up with Pakistani women. One day, Emily gets dangerously ill, and ends up in a coma. Kumail not only has to deal with that, but also her parents played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. Will Emily make it out alive? What will happen when Kumail interacts with her parents?
This might sound clichéd and film snobbish, but The Big Sick’s greatest offering is how much heart and soul is in this story. When you hear about a movie coming out that is based on a real life story/event, you get thoughts of the studio romanticizing the entire event or turning it into propaganda for a certain group of individuals. Thankfully, this is not the case with this story. Everything from the acting, the writing, the jokes, to the arc of the story felt genuine. No one is acting like caricatures of the tropes you see in romantic-comedies. Even the members of Kumail’s family in the film would normally be played as the butt of the joke, but are not. It’s refreshing to see a romance story that’s more grounded. Yes, I love films like Moonstruck that have more comedic characteristics and expressive characters, but playing it grounded was needed for this story.
The actors all worked off each other well, and the comedy was really funny. I mean, I wasn’t holding my sides or out of breath, but the jokes were legit hilarious. So many comedies these days want to have the comedy stars adlib their lines, and it gets tiring when the director doesn’t tell them to stop or try out different takes. I think what makes it all work is that the film isn’t trying to make some out-of-touch fantasy setting like The Back Up Plan. Everything from the small talk to the awkward words of wisdom all connected to me while I was watching. I have been in situations where good comedy came out of small talk, and talks of wisdom ended up not sounding as good out-loud. I also think the story works because of the actors themselves. I am not fully familiar with Kumail, besides some voice-over roles in films like LEGO Ninjago and his guest appearances on HarmonQuest, and I was curious if he could hold the film as the lead. To my happy surprise, Kumail was funny, charming, kind, and incredibly likable. This is definitely one actor in Hollywood that you should be following. Of course, the actress playing Emily, Zoe Kazan, does a great job with a believable quirkiness to her, and as many people have pointed out, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano nail it as Emily’s parents. Both have some of the best acting in their careers. Don’t worry, Ray, your performance here makes up for the last couple of Ice Age films. Seriously though, this film has some of my favorite performances of 2017. They do a great job balancing out the comedy and the drama. When the characters are feeling good, you can feel that, and when they are hurt or in pain, again, you feel that.
It’s good, as a film critic, to point out the pros and the cons for every film, though, I can’t really find anything that would be considered a deal breaker. Maybe the film is a touch long at almost two hours? Then again, I can’t really think of any scenes I would cut out. While this film does expand on a familiar formula, some of the more “predictable” sequences did come up, but due to how the overall film was executed, the story had me hooked. I’m trying to find something that I could really say hurt the film, but The Big Sick set out in its goal to tell a compelling and loving story about how Kumail met Emily, and it did a fantastic job at what it set out to do.
The Big Sick was wonderful and charming. I was so happy it was a case of a good trailer that ended up with an amazing movie, and one of my favorites from 2017. I have to hand it to Kumail for taking a genre of film that is hard to make good these days, and make a real-to-life story about him from his days as a stand-up comedian, his relationship with his family, and Emily, to even her parents. It’s widely available on Amazon Prime for free, but even if you don’t have Prime, buy the movie. Kumail and Emily hit it out of the park, and they made a movie that will definitely make me want to play it again!