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The Big Sick is one of the best movies of the year – a sweet, heartwarming tale that deftly balances great humour and emotional sincerity.
Co-written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon and loosely based on their real-life romance, The Big Sick stars Kumail Nanjiani as Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan as Emily Gardner. After Emily heckles Kumail during a comedy show, the two have a one-night stand that blossoms into a relationship.
Kumail is someone who prefers to avoid conflict and is uncomfortably comfortable with hiding behind lies. His Pakistani family constantly tries to set up him with Pakistani women in the hopes of arranging a marriage even though he’s not interested. He doesn’t tell them about Emily, nor does he tell Emily about how important tradition is to his Muslim parents. He sets up weird rules for his relationship with Emily and wants to avoid meeting her parents.
The truth eventually comes out and a distraught Emily ends the relationship – however, when she is hospitalized and put in a medically-induced coma shortly after, Kumail not only finds himself spending a lot of time with her parents, Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter) but reexamining his actions and behavior.
Even if you went into The Big Sick not knowing anything about it or its stars, you’d probably quickly pick up on the fact that it was based on a true story. You can just tell that someone has actually lived through this, that it’s rooted in real people and real experiences. Obviously parts have been embellished, altered or fictionalized for dramatic effect, that’s the nature of storytelling – but at its core, The Big Sick instantly comes across as deeply personal and far too specific to be anything but real.
That being said, it’s still a story that can resonate with a very wide audience. It’s a story about love, family, religion, adult responsibility and so much more. It’s a story primarily told through Kumail’s perspective and he’s the one who ends up growing the most as a character from the experience since, well, Emily spends most of the time in a coma.
What little time she is awake is spent very wisely, as The Big Sick does a fantastic job of fleshing out her character and her relationship with Kumail. They only get a handful of scenes, but all of them give you important bits of information about them and show how meaningful their connection is.
This is a consistently funny and very sweet movie. You don’t really get a lot of gut-busting, laugh-out-loud humor, but there’s pretty much no scene that doesn’t get a good laugh or have a memorable quip or two. A lot of it is rooted in awkwardness, like Terry bringing up 9/11 out of nowhere, but many of the jokes also come from the fact that, well, a lot of the characters, including the main character, are comedians. Think of it as a heartwarming tale about a lot of really funny people.
One of the best aspects of The Big Sick is its portrayal of Kumail’s Muslim immigrant family. The movie often pokes fun at the ridiculousness of the tradition of arranged marriage, but not in a demeaning or offensive way. Muslim traditions aren’t portrayed as backwards or regressive and the comedy doesn’t come from stereotypes or ignorance. There are real cultural and generational tensions at play here, which can be equal parts silly and painful to deal with it. Zenobia Shroff and Anupam Kher play Kumail’s mother and father respectively and they do a great job at it, although it’s Emily’s parents that get more screen time. It’s a fair trade-off considering Emily’s role.
Kumail career as a comedian is something that doesn’t really add much to the movie itself, weirdly enough. It’s a fact, that much is true, but the scenes of him doing stand-up or interacting with his comedian friends never quite fit with the rest of the story on a structural level. Obviously, the more you draw from real life, the more difficult it is to make everything fit together in a way that makes sense, but this is still something worth pointing out.
In terms of special features, the DVD/Blu-Ray release has just about everything you could ask for – audio commentary, some behind-the-scenes stuff a solid chunk of pretty funny deleted scenes, and even a few other fun treats. The deleted scenes actually have some of the funniest jokes, although it’s easy why the scenes themselves didn’t add much to the movie.
The Big Sick is a great movie, through and through. It’s incredibly sweet, it’s got great writing, great acting and it’s just so full of humanity and kindness and hope. If you missed it while it was in cinemas, definitely consider checking out the home release.
The Big Sick comes out on DVD & Blu-Ray on 20 November 2017.