Movie Review – The Big Sick
Kumail Nanjiani’s true life story about his early career and how he met his very real world wife, Emily. Such a depressing premise didn’t seem like the appropriate place for a comedy. Nanjiani working with Michael Showalter blend the dramatic with light-hearted charm in a blend of real, raw emotion.
Nanjiani (playing himself) is an up and coming stand up comic. He’s doing the circuit thing and not exactly making a living off of it. His traditional Pakistani parents see it as a bump in the road on his way to medical school while trying to force an arranged marriage on him.
An audience member chides Nanjiani on stage one night and he meets his eventual wife, Emily (Zoe Kazan). Things go good for a while until they don’t; Nanjiani’s family influence drives a wedge and splits the two apart. When a life threatening disease strikes Emily Nanjiani is there. The tragedy becomes the thing that bridges all the couple’s perceived issues.
Despite knowing the plot and Nanjiani being so candid about the situation, there is a lot left to discover. The relationship is so real you almost forget it’s a recreation. This shouldn’t be a surprise since the screenplay was written by the real live Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani.
Omit The Big Sick wasn’t quite as funny as expected. Nanjiani is often the best/funniest part of any project he jumps into. While Nanjiani wasn’t as funny as he generally is; his performance didn’t overstay its welcome. Seeing him as a leading man was a nice treat. The project not only let him tell his story but also let him stretch his legs as an actor beyond comedian.
Having Apatow attached lead to some preconceived notions. It was assumed we would be getting the perfect blend of heart and humor as present in The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Because audience assumptions weren’t met head on doesn’t mean the movie is no good.
It’s understandable that the heavy subject matter took a bit away from the jokes. This passion project deals with the writer’s own lives. Nothing to make light of. Cinematically the impact of the sickness would have hit a lot harder if the first forty-five minutes were funnier. Especially since the majority of the audience knows the plot ahead of time.
On the flip side, when things are down you never feel down and out. There is enough levity to break up the tension without undermining the importance of what’s happening.
Nanjiani isn’t the only actor to play himself. His parents in the movie are his real life parents. Neither of them have any acting experience but they both rise to the occasion. Nanjiani’s parents deliver memorable performances. It must have been bizarre to work in a real world setting with a real world story but half of their family is recast.
Veteran actors Holly Hunter and Ray Romano step in for Gordon’s parents. They not only bring gravity to their scenes but also have some fantastic arcs in their own stories.
Regardless of opinion you can’t say something is ‘wrong’ with the movie. Nanjiani and Gordon are telling their own story based on their own lives. Throwing this much passion into the work has paid off. Not only is The Big Sick a great watch but it’s won and been nominated for countless awards.