The Big Sick tells the true love story of its writers, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. Nanjiani plays himself, a stand-up comedian trying to make it big in Chicago, who is nicely heckled by Emily, played here by Zoe Kazan (Gordon does make a cameo appearance at the end of the film). After a conversation at the comedy club, the two go to Kumail’s apartment, which acts as the start of their relationship. As the relationship progresses, the couple has to deal with Kumail’s hesitation to reveal his parents’ (played by Zenobia Shroff and Anupam Kher) desire to continue the Pakistani tradition of arranged marriages, which leads to them breaking off the relationship. However, not long after, Emily becomes mysteriously and seriously ill, and the doctors need to put her in a medically-induced coma in order to appropriately investigate and treat her ailment. While in the hospital, Kumail meets and slowly befriends Emily’s parents, played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.
Simply put, this movie is wonderful. I will happily encourage everyone to see this movie as soon as possible. Different from my previous review for Baby Driver, this movie may not require the biggest screen or best sound system in order to fully appreciate it, but I still encourage you to see this in theaters so that it can enjoy all the financial success that it deserves.
Before I dive into the love fest that this review is about to be, I do want to touch on my one issue that I had with the film, and that is its length. More specifically, the ending of the film felt like it was being drawn out longer than it needed to be.
**DETAILED SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THIS MOVIE. FEEL FREE TO SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH** After Emily gets better, she is still not comfortable with how Kumail handled the situation with his parents and asks him to leave the hospital. However, because of their time together, Emily’s parents both ask Kumail to attend a party celebrating Emily’s recovery. At the party, Kumail shows Emily how his time worrying about her has changed him and he’s finally ready to move on from his family’s traditions and spend his life with her. Emily understandably still has concerns and rejects his show of affection. A few scenes later, after Emily has better understood how much she means to Kumail, she visits him after a performance of his one-man show, presumably to try to patch things up. Here, he reveals that he will be moving to New York with two of his friends, in an attempt to be closer to a bigger comedy scene than Chicago provides. Finally, Kumail is in New York performing his standup, where Emily nicely heckles him again and eventually reveals that she is in the city to be with him. The last scene is both funny and sweet (a perfect encapsulation of the movie as a whole), as they replay the first conversation that they ever had for the audience to hear. My main issue is that the movie set up two potential endings before this final scene. I understand that both scenes serve a purpose: the first, to show that Emily still had truly legitimate concerns with Kumail’s growth occurring only because she was sick, and the second to show that Emily had come to understand just how much Kumail really cared about her, while finding out that he was going away. So it’s not that these scenes are unnecessary in any way, it’s just the movie is over two hours long, which is longer than your traditional romantic comedy (although is pretty standard for Judd Apatow, who produced this film). But when you consider how long other movies that I’ve seen lately, a complaint about length is actually very silly. Basically, I’m being very petty right now/I really had to search for something to be upset about in this movie. **SPOILERS OVER**
Now transitioning to outright praise again. I think this movie’s biggest advantage over other romantic comedies (which I typically do not enjoy) is how real it felt, an obvious benefit of two writers pulling from their actual experiences together. Although the film has tremendously funny jokes, the jokes feel like the natural conversation that actual funny people would have, instead of painfully forced conversations written so that the movie could be called a comedy. Beyond the comedy, though, pulling from the true stories of dealing with cultural differences and a sudden serious illness allows for more emotional than your typical romantic comedy that has to throw some contrived disagreement to cause any sort of “emotional growth.” Neither of these issues could have been easy for the real Nanjiani and Gordon to deal with, so writing a film and inviting thousands of strangers to participate in the most difficult time of their lives is beautiful and admirable.
The reality of the script is only so strong as the cast that has to bring it to life, and everyone here is more than up to the task. Nanjiani has been making a name for himself for years, both through his standup, as well as a number of appearances on a wide variety of TV comedies before co-starring in HBO’s Silicon Valley, and his charm comes through immediately in this movie. As the film goes on, he also proves himself quite the dramatic actor as well, heartbreakingly portraying confrontations with Emily, about his family’s belief in arranged marriages, and then with his parents, about how he wants to move on from those traditions and live his own life. Additionally, although she spends about half the movie in a coma, Kazan also makes the most of her time, to give her own wonderful performance. Appearing in a number of films since her debut in 2003, including 2012’s Ruby Sparks, which she wrote, Kazan really has not taken off or become a household name. Hopefully, that will change with her performance in this movie, as she is able to go toe-to-toe with Nanjiani’s quick wit and charm, particularly in her drugged up state upon waking up from the coma. The affective side of her performance comes through in the above-mentioned confrontation with Nanjiani, and her conversation with him after his last one-man show is a nuanced performance of a woman who wants to say so much to this man she deeply cares for, but also understands that she probably lost her opportunity to do anything about it.
I realize that this review is getting on the long side, and I’m terrible at editing (read: I don’t care enough to edit), but know that the rest of the cast does tremendously with their time as well, with special shout-outs to Holly Hunter and Ray Romano (who I have been told I look like, alongside Bronson Pinchot and Jon Lovitz, so yeah I’m going to go with Ray Romano). Although I loved the entire film, the portion of the film where Nanjiani acts alongside his future in-laws is by far my favorite, and the three of them perfectly and naturally show the growth of their relationship with each other, and their scenes alone pushed this movie towards the top of my all-time favorite movies list.
I simply cannot recommend this movie enough. I have a feeling I’m going to end up a broken record on this site, as I basically tell you to see every movie that I review, but, in the case of these first two, I truly mean it.
Rating. Again. I don’t do great with numbers. Instead, in honor of Kumail’s love of The X-Files, here’s a picture of Agent Scully smiling over a birthday sparkler. It seems happy, which is what this movie makes me (yeah I’ll show myself out).
Extra: Here is a link to an NPR interview that Gordon and Nanjiani recently did. Again, can’t recommend it enough.
Photo Credits: The Big Sick Header: http://variety.com/2017/film/reviews/the-big-sick-review-sundance-kumail-nanjiani-1201965554/ Ray Romano Picture: http://www.nndb.com/people/553/000025478/ Bronson Pinchot Picture: https://twitter.com/bronsonap Jon Lovitz Picture: https://giphy.com/gifs/oc-lovitz-dFf0MERFSuocE Agent Scully Picture: http://www.fanforum.com/f18/happy-birthday-x-files-12th-anniversary-53693/ Research: The Big Sick Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big_Sick Kumail Nanjiani's Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumail_Nanjiani Zoe Kazan's Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoe_Kazan