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The Big Sick – Movie Review

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The Big Sick – Movie Review

Rating: A (Fantastic)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

The Big Sick is the rare comedy that feels like you’re watching real people. A large reason for this is the autobiographical nature of the project, which was based on how comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon met. There is a genuineness in how they want to portray the start of their relationship on screen, brought nicely to cinematic life by director Michael Showalter. Showalter is a promising director of unconventional comedies, as shown with last year’s Hello, My Name is Doris. The Big Sick is certainly hilarious, but it’s also touching in all of the right places. One feels like they’ve been invited into Nanjiani’s life.

So much of Nanjiani’s personality comes through in his performance, which is a genuine mix of funny and friendly. Even though he doesn’t hide his flaws, he’s instantly lovable. The early scenes where he meets Emily, as played on-screen by Zoe Kazan, are incredibly sweet. The humour comes from simple conversations, whether they’re mingling or hanging out at the supermarket. Their chemistry is incredible and it makes the initial break-up scene all the more heartbreaking. The script manages to nicely divide time between Nanjiani’s love life, his time at the comedy club and dealing with his family imposing their values at home. No scene feels superfluous and each is necessary in creating our sympathy towards him.

Even if one obviously knows the outcome when entering the cinema, there is still a nervousness that comes from the hospital scenes as Emily finds herself in a coma. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are excellent as her worrying parents. Their uncertainty towards Kumail feels understandable, as is their later warming up to him. Romano brings a bit of his comedic personality to his performance, but he also presents a different side to him unseen through many Everybody Loves Raymond re-runs. Despite The Big Sick being primarily a comedy, the filmmakers don’t downplay the seriousness of Emily’s situation and the tough decisions her parents have to make.

Even if somebody isn’t Pakistani, it will be easy to relate to the cultural ideas being presented when Kumail visits his family and the humour works spectacularly. The scenes in the comedy club also aren’t simply there, so Kumail can give his stand-up acts. They play key roles in the plot and showcasing his feelings and head space during those parts of the story. One set proves to be especially emotional and Nanjiani nails the heartbreak he’s feeling in that moment. It’s easy to imagine how difficult that scene likely was to write and perform. The Big Sick is a Judd Apatow production, so it not surprisingly runs close to two hours. Yet the film never feels overlong and the pacing never drags. There’s never a wait for the comedic scenes to come back or for a certain character to return.

The Big Sick is clearly a personal film for Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon and their sincerity comes through. The screenplay is funny and touching, but also brilliantly constructed. We really feel for almost everyone on screen. While certain changes were likely done to the story, the filmmakers never go too outlandish. There is no villains in the traditional sense or big elaborate set-pieces. These are real people dealing with real problems, whether it’s racism or a lengthy stay in the hospital waiting room. Nanjiani has cut his teeth on television and supporting roles, but The Big Sick proves he has leading man presence and here’s hoping he writes more wonderful comedies like this one in the future.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison