What’s more important? Your significant other or your family? That can be a challenging question when it comes to your development as a human being. While it doesn’t say much about you and how you react to people, it certainly says something about their personality. Should they side with their lover, then they are willing to dodge bullets and rarely care about the opinions of other people. If they chose family, then they have a lot of beliefs in classic values don’t want to lose a possible safety net from their parents.
As a white guy from a middle class family, I already have to process my thoughts if I’m going to go against my parents. I can’t imagine how much harder that has to be for those from backgrounds with thicker backgrounds. A good friend of mine is marrying into a Mexican-catholic family despite being nonreligious. He’s told me that it’s taken him a while to win over his brides family and to be accepted into their traditions. Another friend of mine married an African-American, despite some resistance from his family. Today, I know them as one of the most loving families around. The Big Sick examines love and conflicting with traditions.
Uber driver Kumail (played by Kumail Nanjiani) is an aspiring stand up comedian who is on the verge of acquiring his big break by possibly getting a spot in a popular Canadian comedy festival. He also does a one person play about his experience of growing up in Pakistan and the U.S.A. and how he’s adopted the American way of living, despite his family staying safe within their Pakistan values. This includes weekly dinners where his parents keep trying to set him up with potential women from Pakistan to lead into an arraigned marriage. This changes during one of his shows when a heckler stops his show.
Aspiring therapist Emily (played by Zoe Kazan) talks to Kumail about his act and the two end up going home. Though they keep claiming they won’t do it again, it leads them to date (without Kumail’s parents knowing of course). After a fight and her walking out, Kumail gets a phone call about her in the hospital. He agrees with the doctor to put her in a medical induced coma and uses her phone to contact her parents. Her father Terry (played by Ray Romano) and mother Beth (played by Holly Hunter) arrive as the two and Kumail try to help them deal with their daughter. The Big Sick happens to not only be very cute, but this is a nice examination at these kinds of relationships. You usually don’t see many interracial kinships (with the exception of this years Get Out), but this one examines a lot of the complications that arise from both families opinions to between the lovers. It even manages to subvert a lot of tropes you typically find in these romance comedies, like how the couple has their “blowout” much earlier, which only makes the situation even more complicated if she recovers.
The main star and scriptwriter, Kumail Nanjuani, clearly has based this off of his experiences (just wait for the end credits). He knows how to juggle the balance of what probably happened and which moments were exaggerated. He also understands just how much he can hurt his family and how high the consequences were. Though his performance as himself was good, the bigger surprise comes from both Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, both actors I haven’t seen in a while. If you think Romano is just repeating his character from Everybody Loves Raymond, then you’ll be in for a surprise by how sincere his character is. While I can’t spoil the best parts, I can be sure he may have earned himself an Oscar nomination.
The Big Sick also dwells into stand up comedy, which is rarely done on film, into new territory I haven’t seen. While most deal with trying to be funny, this one seems to care about how much storytelling is involved. As someone whose done some stand up, I can say that the film is accurate and honest about how hard it is to get noticed. While we’re not all trying to get on Saturday Night Live, we at least have different perspectives that are worth addressing.
I’ll give this ten stuffed giraffes out of ten. I was taken aback with how much I liked this and hope that a lot of people realize that all kinds of love are worth talking about. The biggest sacrifice you can make depends on what you value, and I hope that this movie can help. I can definitely recommend The Big Sick.
Lead actor bombs the film
Ironically, Kumail Nanjiani, the lead actor in this film stands out as a terrible actor against the fantastic talent of Zoe Kazan, Ray Romano, and Holly Hunter. I say, “Ironically,” because it is the lead actor’s project and story! Zoe Kazan is adorable and charming as his love interest, but he is flat and wooden, which has the effect of creating zero chemistry between the lovers in this romance.
Additionally, there are random, out-of-character scenes forced into the story which are unbelievable and clumsy. For example, when Kumail Nanjiani shows up at a drive- thru restaurant, the bit seems like it is from another character in another movie.
Topping all that, the film keeps its emotional connection to the audience at arm’s length due to the insensitive directing that seems to prefer the syllable of every written line in lieu of nuance and charm that may have been between the lines.
Comic Placebo for Serious Issues
Like most comedies, ‘The Big Sick’ is powder-puff drama spiced up with some humorous moments. Its plot tells how a Pakistani-American stand-up comedian embarks on a love affair with a blonde psychology student when she heckles him during one of his stage shows. After she discovers his family are pressing him to choose a Muslim bride for a traditional arranged marriage, she breaks up with him but soon afterward falls ill with a serious infection. He realizes he’s still deeply involved with her while keeping vigil at her hospital bedside – and when her parents arrive, the three of them attempt to break through some cultural differences.
The characters and story possess some originality and relevance, but the film’s effect could have been far more intense if it hadn’t focused principally on laughs. Despite the strong emotional content – love, family and ill-health – the film never escapes the clutches of light comedy. The actors deliver respectable performances, but their efforts can’t lift the material above the level of a forgettable sit-com. Ken Loach’s ‘A Fond Kiss’ explores similar territory in a far more memorable manner.
Romantic comedy, hilarious but also deeply poignant
This film depicts a couple’s challenge in grappling with the cultural differences of their Pakistani and white American families in this portrayal of the protagonist’s real-life relationship. Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan are wonderful in their respective performances as the couple that gradually weaves together an amazing story. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are equally splendid as the parents of the girlfriend. In fact, there are no weak links in the cast.
It’s a film that goes from being a diverting portrayal of the life of a stand-up comic to a romance story to an allegory on overcoming cultural barriers in the United States. The tonal shifts might seem extreme at first, but they gradually cement a powerful narrative that makes for a lot of laughs but also becomes bittersweet and endearing without resorting to a hint of sentimentality.
The film takes on a new form when the girlfriend is beset with a severe illness. From there, the comedy aspect gradually becomes something of a supporting part to a deeper character study and exploration of family and cultural pressures even in the face of unanticipated grave events. You will laugh, you will be close to tears and you might engage in your own introspection after watching this film. Brilliantly written and beautifully acted, this one is from the heart. Recommended to the highest degree.