Big laughs and big heart make ‘The Big Sick’ a must see

| June 29, 2017

The hardest thing to do is categorize what “The Big Sick” is as a movie. It doesn’t operate by regular romantic comedy rules when a major part of the plot involves romantic female lead, Emily (Zoey Kazan) in a coma for most of the movie. That’s normally a third act dramatic turn. This film tells the story of what happens during and after that moment. Aspiring stand up comic Kumail (real life stand up comic Kumail Nanjiani, playing a version of himself) instead is pressed to share most of the scenes between Emily’s parents, his Pakistani family and his comedy friends as he juggles his career, family and the health of his girlfriend as all elements get in each other’s way. the big sick

One thing that is definitely easy to define is the comedy. The film doesn’t rely on any outrageous visual gags and instead leans on Nanjiani’s talent as a comedian to keep the humor coming. Nanjiani knocks it out of the park as the comedian whose jokes keep providing levity, sometimes mask pain and sometimes cross a line that he has to quickly rectify. Like all comedians, a few of Kumail’s jokes land wrong, creating more fires he has to put out when attempting to use humor to diffuse an already tense situation. It helps that Nanjiani’s affable character is naturally someone people would want to talk to while also dealing with troubling stressers in his life. Most of his Americanization and dating life is hidden from his family, who expect him to marry one of many Pakistani girls his mother frequently arranges for him to meet at family dinners.

Kumail’s humor helps the film balance the more serious aspects as he struggles with his more American lifestyle grating against his Pakistani family’s traditional values as well as trying bridge a connection with Emily’s parents as they tend to their daughter. All of the characters hurt in different human ways. Kumail’s identity crisis of yearning for American freedom while feeling pressured by his family creates a cognitively dissonant situation where he tries to have it all without having to think about the inevitable trainwreck his two lifestyles will have when they finally confront each other. And this is all while doctors are unable to figure out the mystery illness that keeps spreading through Emily.

It helps that the chemistry between Kumail and Emily feels sincere in the scenes they have together. Most films will save the illness / hospital stuff as a third act thing after we’ve gotten to see a relationship blossom over an hour and a half. This film has to crunch that down and still tell the story about the character dealing with that. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are scene stealers as Emily’s parents, particularly Hunter, who finds ways to combine humor and kindness in a character full of sadness, stress and anger at the film’s transpiring events.

The film finds the right balance of ping ponging between comedy and drama and manages to tell a wonderful story of a person coming to terms with his life, his culture and his path as he wants to write it.

Whether you want to call “The Big Sick” a romcom or a family dramady, the film tells a story with a lot of heart that will leave you with sides hurting from laughing and an inspired view of what it means for America today to be a cultural melting pot in today’s environment. Film or two a year seem to come out that provide great laughs and a great message. This is one of them.

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