Big Sick, The review

Title: The Big Sick
Director: Michael Showalter
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani,
Ray Romano,
Holly Hunter,
Zoe Kazan
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Runtime: 2 Hours
Music: Michael Andrews
Studio: Lionsgate
Certificate: US: R
UK: 15
Release Date: US: Jul 14 2017
UK: Jul 28 2017
See If You Like: 50/50,
Only Fools And Horses,

Written by star Kumail Nanjiani and his now wife Emily V Gordon, The Big Sick is not only the true tale of their unusual courtship, but a truly funny, heartfelt, rivetingly emotional drama with the power to make you cry both tears of joy and laughter in the very same scene, and redefine a rather stagnant rom-com genre.

Though it doesn’t neatly slot into one specific genre, as while it opens as a somewhat traditional rom-com; with two, clearly, made-for-each-other, people getting to know each others quirks and kinks through a series of enjoyably funny and suitably sweet awwww moments; the shift towards a more traditional comedy/drama comes after a culture clash leads Emily (played by Ruby Sparks‘ Zoe Kazan) to break up with Kumail (playing a version of himself), some time before she slips into a medically-induced coma, and Kumail is forced to spend the majority of the movie sitting by her bedside, in hospital waiting rooms, or other equally awkward locations, with Emily’s understandably hostile parents.

Best known as Dinesh on HBO’s phenomenally funny Silicon Valley, Kumail is clearly the driving force of The Big Sick (and deserves to be seen so much more, as both a writer and star, on the merits of its success); this his story, one he himself has written for theatres, and on screen he is immensely likeable, and delivers his performance with such energy and honest conviction it’s impossible not to empathise with him, wish for everything to work out, and simply enjoy being in his presence. But not only is Kumail likeable, and comes across as the kind of flawed but funny guy every girl wants, with the kind of razor-sharp wit which leaves viewers in hysterics, he also clearly delivers what is hands down his best performance in a number of emotionally charged scenes so perfectly acted you truly feel the pain he’s going through.

Supporting stars Ray Romano (Ray from Everybody Loves Raymond – in a welcome dramatic departure from his usual fare) and Holly Hunter (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) also fare exceptionally well as Emily’s parents; not only excelling in their individual roles of the confused yet steadfast father, and powerful matriarch, but effectively portraying a couple with a lived-in, weathered feel, who never need to use obvious exposition to convey their fear for their daughter, their doubt, and their hostility towards Kumail, but instead do so with their actions, reactions, and a pair of subtle yet brilliant performances.

However, it all comes back to the script; how Nanjiani and Gordon have managed to recreate a fictionalised version of their world; with wholly realised characters who are fully rounded and, above all, grey. As the now husband and wife worked together on the script, we’re presented with a much more rounded picture than gaining a single perspective. No-one here, not Kumail, Emily, or even her and Kumail’s respective parents, are whiter-than-white; Emily is irrational at times, Kumail hides a massive secret from her, there are relationship problems with Emily’s parents, and Kumail’s parents are simply too traditional; yet none of the differences or grey areas seem excessive or exploitative, instead creating a realistic view of people, and families, too often missing from the usual caricatures of big screen comedies.

Those caricatures still exist however, and certain sitcom elements have worked their way into the script; mainly with the seemingly endless parade of, one-note, single, Pakistani women Kumail’s mum invites to their family dinners for his consideration. Thankfully though they never outstay their welcome, aren’t too jarring, and provide several mildly amusing comedic moments used to effectively highlight how he viewed his home life; standing in stark contrast with the more layered and dramatic moments surrounding his relationship with Emily.

It’s also a testament to both the writing, and Kazan’s excellent, emotional, believable, and undeniably infectious performance, just how big a presence Emily has; as while spending the majority of the movie in a coma it’d be easy to have her reduced to nothing more than a background prop. Yet, somehow, through both the transitive properties of her parents’ actions, and the effortlessly energetic, relatable, and immensely enjoyable performance of Zoe Kazan, Emily’s will, and presence is constantly felt throughout the film.

Sure, it’s predictable (what true story, rom-com, or indie drama isn’t?), and there are a handful of editing snafus and continuity errors but, intense nitpicking aside, it’s impossible not to fall in love with The Big Sick; a multifaceted culture-clash comedy with real heart, some fantastically funny deadpan comedy, the best 9/11 joke you’ve ever heard, and four flawless performances from four wonderful actors.

Reminiscent of Only Fools And Horses style of classic comedy, in the way it can make you really feel things, and then throw in an unexpected zinger which’ll have you howling with laughter, The Big Sick is an inclusive culture-clash comedy to appeal to people of all ages, races, genders and religions. A genuine cinematic gem which is not only the best date movie of 2017, but one of the best films of the year, and a truly wonderful watch. A highly intelligent film which is everything a romance, a comedy, or a drama should aspire to be; witty, smart, fun, affecting, genuine, and truly emotional.

The Big Sick is one of the best written, best acted, most charming films you’ll see this year. It’s an instant indie classic, which clearly meant a great deal to everyone involved with it, and is a rare commodity seen in modern cinema; an original, honest, heartfelt joy of a movie; a feel-good film for the ages which is romantic, funny, tense, and a true cinematic delight, likely to stand the test of time and be remembered as one of the greatest rom-coms ever made.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

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