Coming into the festival I was excited to see that The Big Sick was actually playing after it did so well at Sundance, and considering its content. I’ll get into the plot in a bit, but the content I’m talking about is that it is an adaptation of the writing team of Kumail Nanjiani (who also stars) and Emily V. Gordon’s relationship. I’ve been a fan of Kumail for quite some time and I know Emily from podcasts he’s done with her and as such I felt kind of close to their story already. So I was excited to see if it held up with more detail and a dramatization of it all.
The story starts with Kumail working as a comedian and an Uber driver to make ends meet and follow his dream. His family still wants him to be a good Muslim and makes him meet prospective wives for an arranged marriage, but Kumail is just playing along as he wants more of a free American type of life. This is furthered when he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his comedy shoes and they hook up. It’s supposedly a one night stand but quickly grows into a whirlwind romance that he has to keep up behind his very traditional family’s back. Things come to a head when Emily gets deathly ill and Kumail has to fully confront his feelings for her.
This film really excels with some really great performances that I want to highlight first here. This was Kumails first time to really be a leading man and he kills it here, even if he’s playing himself for the most part. He is wonderfully funny and self-aware of his short comings making him feel very grounded and real and he truly is the heart of the film. I didn’t know Kazan before the film, though I know she is maybe best known for Ruby Sparks. She really was great here and I definitely fell for her a little too so it’s easy to understand Kumail doing so as she fell into the character, though I will say at times she played the dishonestly playing down their attraction as too cagey for me to believe there was a signal for Kumail to read. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily’s parents were fantastic with Romano being funny as ever as a goofy but caring father and Hunter was a wonderfully strong woman who could show her softer side in the right situation but generally held up her guard. The film also featured a lot of well-known comedians as friends and colleagues of Kumail. With the likes of Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, Kurt Braunohler, and David Alan Grier in these roles there are plenty of great laughs from these side characters that also had enough character of their own to not just be throwaways. I’d also like to highlight more of his family, as they were wonderful too, but I don’t have time to name them all, but I will say the one who got the most focus was his brother played by the wonderful comedian Adeel Akhtar who steals quite a few of his scenes.
The direction by Michael Showalter also deserves a lot of credit for the success of this film. I know Showalter mostly for his comedic talents, primarily from his show Stella but between The Big Sick and his first feature Hello, My Name is Dorris he truly is one of best new film directors. He really balances the comedy, the romance and the drama of the film skillfully so no one truly overtakes the others but rather artfully mix well together. Fans of Rom-Coms, Comedies, or just Romance Dramas will likely all find purchase with the warm characters and well-paced plot that is on display here. Showalter has great sense of the comedic timing needed to avoid laughs from a joke from running over the next joke or important line which is a very important skill. He also gives the dramatic scenes room to breathe and truly impact the audience as well. For his second feature this really makes me want to see what he does next.
The Big Sick is definitely a perfect date night movie that will appease everyone but it’s also just a wonderful comedy too to watch alone or with friends. It left me wanting more, not because it was lacking, but rather because it was more of a warm embrace of a really great film and wonderful characters. It will premier on Amazon on June 23, 2017.