“The Big Sick” Movie Review


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     Authenticity may be the first word that comes to mind after viewing director Michael Showalter’s “The Big Sick”, a romantic comedy centered around the real life story of comedian and “Silicon Valley” star Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon.  The couple provides the screenplay for the film and Showalter seamlessly guides the overall vision, resulting in a heartwarming, often sweet, portrayal of the events that occurred during their initial stages of courtship.  To say something is “true” or “inspired by” is all but commonplace today, but to actually come across as real is an entirely different level of storytelling.  The script, and resulting dialogue, is packed with the kinds of small details that set the story apart from the often cliched tropes of the genre.  It certainly helps that Kumail steps in to play himself, while Emily is portrayed by Zoe Kazan and effectively creates the kind of quirky personality one would imagine Kumail would actually fall for.

     With four successful and award winning seasons of “Silicon Valley” now under his belt, Kumail makes an effective transition to the big screen as a leading man after several smaller roles in films such as “Central Intelligence” and “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”.  The difference here, of course, is the leading man status that allows Kumail to differentiate himself from his “Silicon Valley” persona as the super nerdy coder Dinesh and become a fully fleshed out big screen character.  When Martin Starr (Gilfoyle) appeared as a school teacher in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, my first reaction was “There’s Gilfoyle!”, rather than lauding Starr for his performance in the film I was watching.  Fact is, neither T.J. Miller (Erlich) or Thomas Middleditch (Richard) have been able to move on from “Silicon Valley” in roles that completely separate themselves from the show either.  But it appears Kumail may have found the path to do so.

     Kumail and Emily’s story is compelling to say the least.  The cornerstone of which is with Kumail and his Pakistani upbringing that would have him follow tradition by allowing his parents to arrange his marriage to another Pakistani woman.  All of that is turned on its head when Kumail, an up and coming comedian working the scene in Chicago, meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) shortly after one of his performances.  The couple hits it off and continue to date, but Kumail has a tremendous problem to deal with at home.  On a frequent basis, Kumail has dinner at his parent’s house, Azmat (Anupam Kher) and Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff), with his brother and his wife, Naveed (Adeel Akhtar) and Fatima (Shenaz Treasury), and a rotating Pakistani woman the family hopes Kumail will one day marry.  All of this is something Kumail doesn't feel comfortable sharing with Emily, even though their relationship begins to flourish into a level one might consider serious.

     Matters worsen significantly when Emily is hospitalized for a serious but unknown condition which causes her to be put into an induced coma, leaving the issues between Kumail and Emily unaddressed at a moment where her health could be failing.  At this point, the story introduces Emily’s parents, Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter), who fly in from North Carolina when they get word of their daughter’s hospitalization.  Romano and Hunter both deliver winning performances, effectively balancing the obvious needs of their daughter with the presence of Kumail, the boyfriend they have yet to meet but have heard so much about.  Romano, being a comic himself, delivers his lines in his traditionally deadpan manner and develops a strong chemistry with Kumail in a number of both touching and comedic scenes in which everyone is simply trying to figure each other out by fitting in a joke or two.  Hunter is also a difference maker, instantly finding herself in a kind of mom mode in that she is at first solely focused on protecting Emily, but later begins to see the kind of person Kumail really is and realizes the love he and her daughter have shared.

     “The Big Sick” is one of those films that has the uncanny ability of taking what should be a somber subject and instead exposes us to what we often call life’s little funny moments.  We see this both in the relationship Kumail and Emily develop together, but also when Emily is in a coma and situations dictate Kumail must forge a relationship with her parents having never met them before.  Of course the issues Kumail has with his own family lurk around every corner, but even that is handled with a lighthearted touch as Kumail begins to realize his family’s customs may not mix well with the American life he has been immersed in.  Different cultures certainly collide, but Kumail and Emily’s story shows us that we can all learn from and love one another, regardless of our differences, and even in the most extenuating of circumstances.  GRADE: B+