The Big Sick (2017)
Film is reviewed from the 2017 SXSW Film Festival screening
Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a stand-up comedian in Chicago. He regularly works at a local, small time comedy club, performing his routine in front of audiences on a nightly basis. His hope, like his fellow comedians at the club, is to make a living doing this, with the goal of maybe moving to New York or L.A. to further his career. He and the other comedians in the club are always on the lookout for talent scouts from the talk shows or the big comedy festivals. Until he makes it big, Kumail supplements his incoming by being a Uber driver.
He goes over to his parent’s house for a weekly dinner. His parents aren’t happy that he is trying to be a comedian instead of something respectable like being a doctor or lawyer. His mother wants Kumail to meet a nice Pakistani woman and is constantly inviting one woman after another to these family dinners. His parents feel that it’s his duty to his family to get married to a Muslim woman and start a traditional Pakistani family. His parents are always holding Kumail’s brother over his head, as he is married to a Pakistani woman.
Kumail gets the heads up that a talent scout for the Montreal Comedy Festival is looking for new talent and will be at the show tonight. As he is doing his standup act, a young woman (Zoe Kazan) reply’s to one of his lines with a “Woo!” He proceeds to call her out, giving her a lesson in how to heckle, explaining that “Heckling doesn’t have to be a negative.” When she makes a witty reply, keeping up with Kumail’s wit, he is intrigued. He later sees the woman at the bar and goes over to ask her name. After he tries to impress her by writing her name, Emily, in Urdu, she gives him a hard time over his pickup technique. Little do these two know that this is the start of an incredible romance and that this relationship will force Kumail to make some hard life choices.
Based on his life, writer/star Kumail Nanjiani and his wife in real life Emily V. Gordon, along with director Michael Showalter, have brought us a brilliant film that is one part romantic comedy and one part serious drama. Front and center to this movie is the comedy of Nanjiani, and it’s in full force. Using his usual “man-child” approach that is a staple in his standup, the movie revolves around Nanjiani’s struggle to juggle his family expectations to follow the Pakistani way of life (especially with dealing with the opposite sex) with the fact that he has been living in the U.S. for most of his life. He is always being exposed to a totally different world than the one of his parents, and that constant clash is one of the central themes of the movie. The film covers a broad range of subjects from racial profiling, 9/11, dating in the Internet age, the hard life of a comic and putting your needs above your family and its traditions.
The cast makes this film so enjoyable to watch. Nanjiani and Kazan are incredibly on the screen together, playing off one another with an ease that makes us root for the couple from the start. Kazan shows great comic timing, and it’s a credit that she can quip with Nanjiani on an equal basis. Of the rest of the cast, the big standouts to me were Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, who play Emily’s supportive to a fault parents. Hunter plays a force of nature mom who is hyper protective of her daughter. Romano’s character is more bluff than substance, and Kumail sees him as a way to get into good favor with Emily’s mom. Hunter chews a bit of scenery from time to time, but it fits the character she is playing, so it works in the film.
The film doesn’t feel it’s 2-hour length, mostly because the laughs keep coming. There are a few behind the scenes at the comedy club that could have been cut, but even then I didn’t mind them because there was usually a joke or two told, mostly at the expense of one of the fellow comics. There are some serious moments in this film, and they are dealt with a loving touch, though always humor is just around the corner waiting until it’s time to break the tension.
The Big Sick is one of those great date films, one that has something for everyone. And you just might have to go a second time, because you will be laughing so hard, you won’t hear the next line and believe me, it’s worth it. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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