Release: 20th November 2017
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
Kumail is a Pakistani comic who meets an American graduate student named Emily at one of his stand-up shows. As their relationship blossoms, he soon becomes worried about what his traditional Muslim parents will think of her. When Emily suddenly comes down with an illness that leaves her in a coma, Kumail finds himself developing a bond with her deeply concerned mother and father.
There are most notably three kinds of romantic comedy. There is the one where a meet-cute leads to hilarity and ultimately a showy display of affection in a very public place. There is the one where we watch a relationship slowly dissolve until they finally part ways in a bittersweet sympathy of broken memories. And then there is the one that plays fast and loose with the aforementioned genre conventions in an effort to be the next When Harry Met Sally. Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon’s predominantly biographical The Big Sick is very much in the third category. Except where you’d normally find nebbish neo-realistic exchanges, instead lies a skewed cultural identity and uneasy ethnic hubris. The Big Sick is a story about finding funny through finding one’s self – and there isn’t a single diner table orgasm in sight.
Director by Michael ‘Coop from White Hot American Summer’ Showalter, The Big Sick is the sort of high concept popcorn fodder you’d expect to see a 90’s McConaughey or Roberts attached to. But in execution it feels way more earnest than one might initially expect. Yes, it has Judd Apatow attached and yes; it is, believe it or not, an honest to God (or Allah in this case) true story, but the film has a DNA that screams indy darling. Whether it is Apatow’s sensibilities at play or not, Showalter directs The Big Sick as if he were making a road movie. It is a film littered with emotional pit stops, flurries of physical comedy, a winding pace and a well-timed epilogue. Here is a film framed in tight spaces, graceful and patient; cinema vertie in every sense except in aesthetic. It is maybe Showalter’s lack of presence, however, which may contribute to a laboured pre-coma first act, which is light on humour, easy on drama and bohemian in purpose. In fact, there is a very real danger that some who would ultimately enjoy the film could easily disengaged and walk away long before its much stronger second act kicks in.
When the second act does kick in, though, things begin to get real interesting. The key to The Big Sick’s success is the gorgeous trio of Kumail and Emily’s parents (played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano). Everyone truly should love Raymond, and here, as Emily’s amiable teddy bear of a father, he gets to flex a number of untested emotional muscles, and still finds time to generate some of the film’s strongest laughs. Hunter, meanwhile, is an absolute whirlwind of a presence as Beth. She is quite literally the mum everyone wishes they had. She is a viper when tested, a lioness when she needs to be and a mumma bear when it counts. Her and Romano’s characters are exceptionally well written, but their material realisation is no small exercise; both actors deserve ample recognition. Nanjiani meanwhile does a lovely job of playing himself, and appears to get a real kick out of sharing scenes with his onscreen family (among which is an adorable Anupam Kher), as well as with Hunter and Romano. Zoe Kazan, meanwhile, makes an impression where it counts and remains free from the trappings of a hipster-centric ‘cool girl’ world. She is a Meg Ryan and a Diane Keaton in all the right ways.
The Big Sick is not perfect. It is, for a film about stand-up comedians, woefully light on genuine laughs, and the emotional connect is mostly off target. Plus, as previously mentioned, has a pace that is not to all tastes. But it still delivers the goods in terms of investing in these characters and their story. It is not a revolutionary film in any way, shape, or form, but it does enjoy the benefits of being a well written and well acted little gem. Some films just need to be sweet, and The Big Sick, like Sharmeen’s barfi is made with plenty of sugar and lots love.
Film Grade: B-
A genuinely enjoyable set of features are made up of solid deleted scenes, and neat little making of, a series of bloopers / alternate takes that are predominantly funnier that most of the film’s actual jokes, and a great promo tour feature. Watch this one on its own merit for a great joke about deep water marine life.
Special Features Grade: B+
The Big Sick will warm your cockles on these winter nights. It is life affirming and easily relatable. Bolstered by a great set of special features, this is a solid purchase.
Overall Grade: B