Some films are just perfect. And by perfect I mean they are beautiful little snapshots of the human experience. No film is actually perfect. As critics we have a tendency towards picking films apart. All the little things become flaws instead of treating them like humans. Flaws are what make us interesting and beautiful. To a certain extent…
Based on the real-life story of Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, The Big Sick is a film loaded with all kinds of things. Things like humour, astute observations, witty dialogue, realistic acting, and poignant moments. This is a different type of romantic comedy. Sure, there are funny moments, but it feels all so real (because it is!) because of the infusion of a bunch of universal moments. Moments we can all relate to on some level. The Big Sick is not afraid to be geeky, mushy, vulnerable, and human.
Being Pakistani and a stand up comedian does not seem like a marriage made in heaven. Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani – Central Intelligence, Life As We Know It) is struggling to establish himself as a stand up, much to the chagrin of his Muslim mother (Zenobia Shroff – from television’s The Affair) and father (Anupam Kher – from television’s New Amsterdam). Though they are willing to overlook it as long as he prays and marries a Muslim Pakistani woman, preferably one which they bring to weekly family dinners.
To keep the peace and not be thrown out of the family, Kumail goes along with it. Even after a show one night where he meets a white girl named Emily (Zoe Kazan – from television’s The Deuce). After trying to keep it casual the two can no longer deny their feelings and start dating. While Emily wants Kumail to meet her parents, Beth (Holly Hunter – The Piano, Broadcast News) and Terry (Ray Romano – from television’s Everybody Loves Raymond), he keeps avoiding the issue.
Secrets have a way of coming back and biting you in the butt. This is what happens to Kumail when Emily finds out his parents don’t know about her and keep trying to arrange a marriage for him with a Pakistani woman. Emily breaks up with Kumail.
Right around this time she gets really sick and is in the hospital in a medically induced coma. Kumail has to contact her parents and subsequently spend a lot of time with them. All this causes Kumail to really think about how he has been living his life and what he wants in the future.
Cultural differences. A loaded statement. Something that has crossed wires in many a romantic relationship. It is done with such realism here that you will be totally involved. It does not use crazy over the top humour or unrealistic romantic situations either. It is an adventure, one in which you will be caught up in very short order.
There is humour – of the subtle and witty variety – but what I really loved was the thought provoking side of the film. What it means to be an immigrant in the United States (or Canada). The differences between generations in a family, especially those of an immigrant family. How visible minorities have to deal with racism. How many of us, no matter of which cultural background, carry around prejudices without really realizing it. Plenty of food for thought here.
Director Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris, The Baxter) does a wonderful job. This is a delicate film for a director. He uses a very light touch. Just allows the wonderful script and realistic acting by his cast take the forefront.
-A Personal Journey: The Making of The Big Sick
-The Real Story
-2017 SXSW Film Festival Panel
-Cast & Filmmaker Commentary
-The Big Sick: The Other Stuff