When I first heard about The Big Sick I had some fleeting thought directed towards the fact that I needed to go see this movie. The cast seemed fantastic, I mean who doesn’t love Ray Romano? (probably tons of people) and Kumail Nanjiani has been quietly hilarious for years. But somehow The Big Sick passed me by. I saw other movies and wrote other reviews, all the the while passing the poster for it’s true life comedic narrative and berating myself for not having given it more attention.
Having recently righted this wrong, I can say after giving it some thought, that The Big Sick is one of my favourite movies that I’ve seen in recent memory. Of course it’s not without it’s flaws. Being an Apatow production it’s about 20 minutes too long with three different endings, but it’s quite easy to overlook those things after consistently laughing for two hours.
The Big Sick tells the true story of how Kumail Nanjiani met his wife Emily (portrayed here by the ever lovely Zoe Kazan) and the odd and offbeat experiences that happens after she’s put into a medically induced coma. This isn’t spoiling anything since it’s the literal synopsis of the movie on IMDB. Most of the comedy comes from Kumail interacting with Emily’s parents who know all about him while he’s been left in the dark about them. It’s written by Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, and it feels authentic because of that. The characters feel realized and while some of the events are embellished as Nanjiani has said, it never feels over the top or unbelievable.
While watching Nanjiani and Kazan meet and eventually fall for each other is heartwarming and often hilarious (there’s a great poop joke that Kazan owns) it’s the interactions between boyfriend and parents that make the movie truly worth watching. Hunter and Romano are both so goddam good here as the bickering couple that’s been together for years, I found myself smiling whenever they came on screen.
The movie also deals with Nanjiani's family and their hopes that he’ll follow their wishes in having an arranged marriage, as is custom within their Pakistani family. While it’s often funny, with Nanjiani's mother coming up with thinly veiled excuses for prospective wives to drop on by, it also explores the role of the family tradition in an age where tradition has given way to something different.
This is where The Big Sick displays it’s merit as a great movie. Through its use of comedy often frank discussions about the tendrils of commitment are explored. Specifically commitment when no one is asking for it and what sacrifice represents in the context of personal desire or for the well being of another. Early on there’s a line from Hunter to Nanjiani about the fact that he really doesn’t need to be here, her family is with her and part of the emotional weight of the film is Nanjiani coming to terms with his role in that situation. Fitting into her life in a way that makes sense and trying to belong in a space that doesn’t necessarily need him. But because it’s also an Apatow production some of the emotional heft borders on saccharine and cheesy, but just slightly so. And because this is based on Nanjiani’s personal life, there’s a certain amount of validity that shines through that I think would have been lost if this were just another part for him.
Some of the side plot involving Nanjiani’s standup career was slightly less interesting. And really it’s just used as a narrative device to get the story to a certain point. But while the narrative reasoning for the standup career to be included was lacking, the characters that show up weren’t. Specifically Bo Burnham and Aidy Bryant as his friends and fellow comedians had some great lines throughout and I would have loved to see more of them.
I thought that I was going to enjoy The Big Sick when I first heard about it, but I didn’t expect to be blown away like I was. It’s unfair to call this the sleeper hit of the summer because A) What does that really mean? And B) I feel like it’s demeaning to everyone involved. This is a movie that’s getting a lot of buzz from those who have seen it, but it also hasn’t gotten a huge marketing push. So please, take advantage of the fact that Cineplex is doing some cheap ticket promotion (the details of which I’m not clear on) and go catch The Big Sick.
The Big Sick: Definitely a movie that’s flying under the radar in a summer filled with mediocre offerings. Go see it this week and have a good laugh.