The Big Sick
Comedy is really hard. It’s a genre in cinema that is incredibly underappreciated, and yet making people laugh indirectly through a screen is one of the hardest feats any artist will ever undertake. As for finding a good comedy, it’s incredibly hard today, mostly because studios don’t want to take a risk and thus the indie productions made instead are forced to infuse some drama in order to sell. In The Big Sick, however, I was completely floored by how the laughs were transfused throughout every moment in the film; there wasn’t a single joke that didn’t land.
The Big Sick is the incredible true story of Kumail Nanjiani’s relationship with his wife Emily V. Gordon. The couple wrote the script and Najiani plays himself in the movie. The story follows Kumail, an Uber driver living in Chicago who pursues his passion of stand-up comedy at night. At one of his gigs, Nanjiani meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) who is on the exact same wavelength of witty banter as him. The couple seems perfect for each other, except that Nanjiani’s Pakistani parents (played by Anupam Kher and Zenobia Schroff) expect him to go into an arranged marriage.
The title of the film comes from the serious illness that Emily contracts and that brings Nanjiani face to face with Emily’s parents (played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter). Essentially, seeing the writing credits in the film is a bit of a spoiler since you know Emily and Nanjiani end up together; but the film plays with that notion at the finale, making perceptive viewers feel completely disoriented. As for the first half of the film, the writing is hilarious and incredibly fresh. The characters are written in a way that make you want to jump out of your seat and into the screen with them.
A problem with many comedies though, is that there is a certain saturation point, where the audience identifies the vein of jokes and the crisp humor at the beginning doesn’t feel so fresh anymore. But The Big Sick isn’t most comedies; it’s smart to introduce Emily’s parents at the halfway point of the runtime, to shift the audience into a completely new gear.
The film is really held up by a perfect cast that has an incredible interwoven chemistry with each other. Nanjiani is the heart of the film, but Kazan makes her presence ubiquitous so that she’s even on our minds when she’s not onscreen. And then there are the pair of parents who are absolute gold, especially Holly Hunter, who showcases her chops with perhaps the least developed character in the film, maiking her the most memorable. But if I had to have on gripe, it’s that Nanjiani, as great as his comedic timing and performance was, struggled with the more dramatic bits; they don’t land with as much force as they could have. That’s not to Nanjiani’s discredit; he’s simply not a dramatic actor, but it did take away from some possible emotional levels.
I also feel like the cultural aspect should be addressed. What I mean by that is that there aren’t many movies (comedic or dramatic) that look at the lives of Muslim or Middle Eastern culture in the US. The Big Sick was incredibly refreshing and bold to take on the subject, especially in such an ardent time for Muslims and Middle Easterners in the US. It’s comforting and necessary to have this voice heard throughout the country, and hopefully the world.
The Big Sick is not only the best comedy since Trainwreck, but it’s an inspirational story on the bridging of two cultures through love. Don’t worry, it’s not as cheesy as it sounds, it might actually be one of the least cheesy rom-coms I’ve ever seen.