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Review: THE BIG SICK (2017) 'the funny, smart, and emotional rom-com is the best film of the summer'

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Joseph Friar

By Joseph Friar
July 14, 2017 at 11:39 a.m.



THE BIG SICK (2017)

Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff, Adeel Akhtar, Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, Kurt Braunohler, Vella Lovell, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Jeremy Shamos

Directed by Michael Showalter 

Apart from being the best movie in theaters this summer, there are so many reasons to love “The Big Sick.”  This is the third film from Michael Showalter (The Baxter, Hello My Name is Doris) who wrote and starred in the very funny Wet Hot American Summer, it’s produced by Judd Apatow, and the cast is one of the funniest assembled for a rom-com.  You’’ll laugh and cry but mostly laugh during the film that’s based on the real-life courtship of star Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon played in the film by the adorable Zoe Kazan.  

Pakistani-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani (HBO’s Silicon Valley) plays himself in the film that opens with Kumail doing standup at a Chicago comedy club.  Zoe Kazan (who you can put in any rom-com to make it better) plays Emily, a grad student in the audience who is accused of heckling by Kumail after letting out a “woo-hoo” during his set.  She argues it wasn’t heckling while he explains that any outburst could throw a comedian off his game.  They drink and flirt and end up sleeping together.  It’s the start of a romance by two people who are not looking for a romance. 

Nanjiani and Kazan have great chemistry together and part of the film’s charm is not knowing if the relationship between Kumail and Emily is going to work.  She has some emotional baggage, he comes from a traditional Muslim family that believes in arranged marriage, known as just “marriage” in his country, and so there are obstacles that stand in the way of their happiness.  The courtship between the couple is genuine and the jokes are spot on funny.  Their romance is intercut with scenes of Kumail dong standup comedy (alongside SNL’s Aidy Bryant, and comedian’s Bo Burnham and Kurt Braunohler) and some wonderful dinner table scenes with Kumail’s family played in the film by Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff, Adeel Akhtar, and Shenaz Treasurywala.  Every time Kumail joins them for dinner his mom arranges for an eligible Pakistani woman to unexpectedly “stop by” in order to get the ball rolling on an arranged marriage. 

Emily finds out about the arranged marriage thing and after a fight Kumail leaves her hanging by choosing his family over their relationship.  They break up and then tragedy strikes when Emily is admitted into the hospital with an infection that causes doctors to put her in a medically induced coma.  Kumail notifies her parents played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano at which point the film gets even better.   The Oscar-winning actress and veteran comedian steal every scene as the concerned parents who slowly let Kumail into their lives after putting up an initial resistance because of his breakup with their daughter. 

“The Big Sick” is what so many rom-coms strive to be but fail, funny and emotional.  With the amount of talent in front and behind the camera it’s easy to see why the film succeeds at every level.  The jokes are funny, the acting is first-rate, and it all feels so real and genuine.  Showalter does a super job of balancing the drama with the comedy.  There are scenes that will make you cry when you’re not laughing out loud and that’s because we care about all these people.  The audience is connected to the story and this cast and that is a form of magic not many films can pull off.  

(4 stars)

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