Director: Michael Showalter

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan

Year: 2017

Setting When Harry Met Sally aside as an icon that can’t possibly be touched, there have been a handful of modern romantic comedies in the past few years that have actually given me hope that the usually-terrible genre can be saved, that we can have rom and com but not vomit, that it is possible to write a funny story about love without filling it with patronizing banality.  What If (which also stars Zoe Kazan) comes to mind, also Sleeping With Other People, and even People Places Things, which is only partly a rom/com, mostly something magically else.  The Big Sick had the chance to join these ranks, to rise above the idiotic standards of the genre, and in most ways it thankfully succeeded.

Kumail is a young, Pakistani man whose family still clings to the old ways, even though they moved to Chicago years ago to provide their children with a better life.  He is supposed to marry a Pakistani girl, become a doctor/lawyer/engineer, pray every day, and make his mother proud, but no pressure.  Instead, he wants to be an actor and a stand-up comedian, a practice that his family firmly disapproves of.  One night at the comedy club, Kumail meets Emily, a therapist grad student, who will chance his life forever.  He can’t tell his family that he is dating her, and so he can’t commit to a relationship with her, and so she has no choice but to forget about him.  But when Emily is rushed to the hospital with a life-threatening infection, Kumail begins to understand that he can’t lose her, no matter when his mother will say.

Michael Showalter also directed Hello, My Name is Doris, and that’s about it, but the guy seems to have a nose for comedy, going back to his Wet Hot American Summer days, which he wrote and starred in.  Produced with the help of Judd Apatow, Kumail Nanjiani wrote The Big Sick with his wife Emily, and it’s loosely based on their own courtship and relationship.  So there’s a lot of real heart and authentic talent behind this film; what’s more, you can feel it every step of the way.  It’s not your typical rom/com, it’s somehow better, while still clinging to the industry norms.  Its honesty is perhaps what wins us over, and you can feel Nanjiani’s passion throughout; for his wife, for his craft, for his background, for his story.  He isn’t the greatest actor of our generation, but his comedy is natural, and whoever cast Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents is a genius; they were perfect for the roles.  This isn’t the best romantic comedy of the last twenty years, but asking it to be would be asking much too much.  Appreciate that it reached so high and that it made it near the top of list.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



By ochippie

Writer, Critic, Dad Columbus, Ohio, USA Denver Broncos, St. Louis Cardinals Colorado Avalanche, Duke Blue Devils