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The Big Sick - Movie Review

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The Big Sick - Movie Review

4 starsReligion, family, politics, culture, life-threatening illness, forbidden romance (and so many other things) get the once-over in comedian Kumail Nanjiani’s The Big Sick, his real-life story that is as heart-breaking as it is funny, and preposterous as it is authentic. Were it not written by Nanjiani himself (along with wife Emily V. Gordon) and promoted by the two as very faithful to their real story, it would be far too difficult to characterize it as anything but farcical fiction. Then again, there’s only one place something so chaotic and all over the road could come from; and that’s real life.

In the case of Kumail and Emily, real life means meeting in a stand up comedy club (he was performing, she was heckling) before dating, breaking up, then falling in love. Well, only one of them knew at the time they were in love. See, shortly after breaking up, Emily grew ill with a mysterious infection and was put into a medically induced coma by doctors while they tried to figure out what was wrong with her. In the meantime, Kumail was by her bedside pledging to marry her if she pulled through. The Big Sick is their story.

In the film, we learn that Kumail immigrated from Pakistan with his family when he was a child. Naturally, his conservative Muslim mother and father want him to grow up and become a doctor or lawyer, but having assimilated into American culture, Kamail harbors his own dreams of making it as a stand-up comic in Chicago while driving for Uber pays the bills.

For the most part, Kumail is a good son, often enjoying dinner with his family which consists of mother Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff ), father Azmat (Anupam Kher), and brother Naveed (Adeel Akhtar). But when called for prayer, he instead plays video games, and when presented a steady stream of single Pakistani women who have been pre-arranged for marriage, Kamail plays along as he has yet to mention his white American girlfriend (Zoe Kazan).

While visiting Emily in the hospital, Kumail meets Emily’s folks (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) who know of his reluctance to commit to a relationship with their daughter and are subsequently not pleased to meet him. But he persists, and cultures clash as the three are forced to somehow find a way to fight through their differences, while Emily fights for her life.

Hunter is absolutely wonderful in her role and, quite frankly, steals the show as Emily’s southern-drawling, opinionated, and quite stubborn mom forced to get to know Kumail in spite of what she learns about his selfishness. Romano is also quite good as the slightly more sympathetic father who shares in one of the best 9/11 jokes since, well, 9/11. Romano and Nanjiani are brilliant on screen together and share more than a few lough-out-loud moments.

Insanely funny moments aside, Nanjiani and Gordon’s script finds its biggest hits in the ways it builds characters with a deep complexity and high emotional intelligence. Even the secondary characters are more fully fleshed out than is typical. For instance, there’s an interesting moment with Kumail and one of his jilted female suitors who calls him out on how his refusal to tell his parents about Emily hurts both them and the girls he strings along. Most other films – especially comedies – wouldn’t bother with that side of the story. Nanjiani and Gordon even take on the topic of religion by pointing out its complications and pitfalls without really having a serious point to make about it.

It will be no surprise for anyone to discover where this whole this is going. There’s no twist, no big revelation, and other than the atypical structure where our characters fall in love, break up, and come back together – all within the first act, there’s really nothing innovative to the storytelling. But the film’s beauty shines through in the ways it digs beneath the surface of relationships and explores those little things that hold families together and those nagging discomforts that try to tear them apart; things like food, love, forgiveness, cultural differences, familial pressures, and even illness. Those are some mighty big themes to take on – especially in the stifling confines of a romantic comedy. But in the hands of Nanjiani and Gordon and under the unobtrusive direction of Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris), it all works to perfection. The Big Sick is a healthy breath of fresh air.

The Big Sick - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for language including some sexual references.
120 mins
: Michael Showalter
Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter
: Comedy | Romance
An Awkward True Story
Memorable Movie Quote: "We lost 19 of our best men."
Theatrical Distributor:
Official Site:
Release Date:
June 30, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Based on the real-life courtship between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, THE BIG SICK tells the story of Pakistan-born aspiring comedian Kumail (Nanjiani), who connects with grad student Emily (Kazan) after one of his standup sets. However, what they thought would be just a one-night stand blossoms into the real thing, which complicates the life that is expected of Kumail by his traditional Muslim parents.

When Emily is beset with a mystery illness, it forces Kumail to navigate the medical crisis with her parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) whom he's never met, while dealing with the emotional tugof-war between his family and his heart.

No details available.

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