Movie review: ‘The Big Sick’ a touching comedy story
–Summer is a time when we get a slew of different kinds of films. Some are animated. Some are action films. Some are big, broad comedies. But almost all of them are big, star-driven films with massive budgets.
But summer can also be a time when some smaller films find a release and find an audience. Personal stories and slices of life that connect with audiences burned out on the big budget and craving something more intimate.
We’ve seen that a couple times this summer. First, in late June, “Baby Driver” was an action film that was cut from a different cloth, and the audience responded. Now, we’ve gotten our second surprise hit of the summer, “The Big Sick.” It’s a different kind of story and a different kind of comedy, but the real emotions and beautiful performances have helped it connect with audiences.
The film centers on Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani), a proud Pakistani man trying to make it as a comedian in Chicago. He’s also trying to navigate some dicey family waters. His parents are devout Muslims, but he isn’t. And his parents think he must marry a woman from Pakistan, going so far as to set him up with a number of suitors. But Kumail isn’t sold.
Worse yet, he connects with Emily (Zoe Kazan) one night at the comedy club. They begin seeing each other, and soon their relationship turns serious. Or at least it does for her. When he admits he hasn’t told his parents and he struggles to see them with a future, Emily walks away.
A few days later, when she ends up in the hospital, Kumail is the one that gets the call to be by her side. When her condition turns serious, he ends up having to reach out to her parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano), who quickly arrive and ratchet up the tension. They are aware of the difficulties between Kumail and Emily, and don’t warm to him right away.
However, as Emily remains comatose, Kumail and her parents start to bond. And Kumail starts to evaluate what she means and what he wants for his life. The question is, when Emily wakes up, will she want the same thing.
This is such a raw and real story, it’s fair to wonder where the inspiration for it came from. It is, in fact, based on the story of Kumail, who co-wrote the screenplay with his wife, Emily Gordon. That, of course, makes this story even sweeter and more meaningful. This is Kumail and Emily sharing their unique and powerful love story with the world.
Director Michael Showalter (“My Name is Doris,” “Wet, Hot American Summer”) and producer Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up,” “The 40 Year Old Virgin”) saw something in this script and help it to come to life in a beautiful way.
Kumail, best known for his work as Dinesh on the HBO comedy “Silicon Valley,” does a great job in the lead role. I’ve always appreciated his comedic style and timing on “Silicon Valley,” but he does a great job with the more dramatic material here, too.
The rest of the cast is good as well. Romano and Hunter do a beautiful job as Emily’s parents, offering a slightly different role for them. And Kazan is delightful as Emily. There is such a light sweetness to her and their relationship that it really draws you in.
I also enjoyed the exploration of being an up-and-coming stand up comedian. Kumail’s group of friends and peers — including Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant of “SNL,” and Kurt Braunholer — are funny together and add to the depth and dimension of the story.
“The Big Sick” is unlike any movie I’ve seen this year, and unlike any love story I’ve seen in film. It’s beautifully told and acted and hooks you from the opening moments to the closing credits.
“The Big Sick” has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for language including some sexual references. Enter with caution.
Four stars out of four.