The Big Sick: Film Review
Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Ray Romano, Holly Hunter
Director: Michael Showalter
With a strong footing in truth, The Big Sick's rom-com cum cultural clash love story has rightly sent the genre back into fresher territory.
Silicon Valley's Dinesh aka Kumail Nanjiani stars as a version of himself in a story ripped from his own life.
Wannabe stand-up Kumail is working in a club one night, when he's heckled by Zoe Kazan's Emily. Intrigued, Kumail ends up striking a relationship with her after the show. Despite trying out an awful chat-up line with Emily, the pair connect and end up in an easy relationship.
However, what Emily doesn't know is that Kumail's Pakistani family is trying to set him up with other women in an arranged marriage, via a series of dates which happen at family meals. (In one of the more excruciating touches, the women his parents have selected for him just happen to drop by during meal-times for an appointment.)
When this revelation hits the pair, Emily splits from Kumail, leaving him devastated. But things get worse when he gets a call to say Emily's seriously sick in hospital...
In many ways, The Big Sick is your typical romantic comedy.
Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl and problems and obstacles persist in the course of true love. So far, so tried and tested formula.
However, what The Big Sick brings to the table is a large degree of freshness, some genuinely funny moments and some sweet insights into the cultural clashes which are, of course, inevitable.
And really, at its heart, this is not a film that defies convention.
In fact, the only defiance is Kumail's insistence on going against his family wishes and avoiding spending time praying in the basement, choosing instead to play games on his phone, until his allotted time has passed.
Yet, being grounded in so much truth and veritas, (unsurprising as it's ripped from Kumail Nanjiani and Emily's real life romance), what The Big Sick manages to do is breathe some life into a genre that's been stale for a while and subverts expectations of those going into it.
Nanjiani brings his usual deadpan flair to the delivery, but thanks to a cleverly written script that fizzes with life and reality, there are some truly amusing moments. Mainly due to the ease of banter between the two and a slight subversion of the usual gags you'd expect about cultural stereotypes.
From a great gag over Kumail's Uber-career to the genuine warmth these two share, there are very much the signs that The Big Sick is keen to inject some humour where it's never been before.
It's not entirely perfect though.
At just a shade over 2 hours, there could have been some excising on the script front (a slew of comedy bar scenes seem a little unnecessary) to ensure the perfect mix, but it's a minor complaint.
The other interesting angle The Big Sick brings is that at its heart, it's a two-pronged relationship comedy.
Not only does Emily and Kumail's relationship take up the time on screen, but there's also a large amount of the film which is devoted to Kumail's relationship with his potential in-laws, played by a terrier-like Holly Hunter and an easy-going career best Ray Romano. There is also the battle between Kumail's family and their desire to do right by tradition and his desire to break away from that. (Interestingly, the final resolution doesn't quite provide all the answers and really does feel like there are more questions than answers.)
As Emily's parents battle their wariness and try to protect their daughter from the indirect charm offensive launched by an awkwardly bashful Kumail, what also emerges is profoundly sweet and utterly charismatic despite its inevitable outcome.
There's a great deal of earnest charm about The Big Sick and it's difficult to be profoundly cynical against its intentions. But in crafting a rom-com that's genuine and earnest, The Big Sick succeeds in being a genre best and ensures the entirely over-stuffed category is given a new lease of life.