Movie Review: The Big Sick

My grandparents had an arranged marriage of sorts. Both families decided their children would marry each other but the Great War changed the world and them with it. When my grandfather was just a teen, he went off to Paris to study dressmaking. A few years later, my grandmother immigrated to Canada. She loved the freedom that the New World brought her. However, a few years after that, when my grandfather wrote and asked her to sponsor him to come to Canada (as her brother), she agreed out of familial obligation. She had no intention of marrying a man she barely knew. But my grandfather was persistent. He chased after her and, just as my great-grandparents wanted, they ended up getting married and staying together for 59 years.

The movie, THE BIG SICK, follows a similar premise. Real-life stand-up comedian, Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh of TV’s SILICON VALLEY), plays himself in a story that is based on his own experience meeting and ultimately marrying Emily V. Gordon (played here by Zoe Kazan (THE MONSTER). As a first generation Pakistani-American, Kumail is under heavy pressure from his parents (played by Bollywood legend Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) to marry a nice, pretty, intelligent and Muslim, Pakistani-American woman who comes from a good and successful family. Kumail, however, is just not interested in those women. He’s too Americanized. One night, at one of his gigs, he meets Emily and the two decide to go back to his place for some non-committal sex. The couple, however, soon realise that their one-night stand won’t be enough for them and they begin to have a real relationship though neither is convinced that it will last. When Emily suddenly becomes ill and is put into a medically-induced coma, Kumail has to deal with both the crisis and Emily parents, Beth (Oscar® winner Holly Hunter, THE PIANO) and Terry (Ray Romano, TV’s EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND), whom he has never met before. Beth knows all about Kumail, though, and even though he’s genuinely concerned about her daughter, she’s not about to cut him any slack.

THE BIG SICK is one delightful, crowd-pleasing movie! All the performances are wonderful, with Hunter and Romano almost stealing the film away from Nanjiani. Romano does his usual deadpan shtick but who cares? He has such great comedic timing and seeing him on the screen will make you want to download old episodes of his TV show to watch all over again. Considering a good chunk of the film deals with Emily in a coma, director Michael Showalter (HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS) was able to find the right tonal balance between the seriousness of the situation and the comedic moments that inevitably poke through. Because of that, the film never gets gloomy, nor does it resort to unrealistic hijinks to keep the story light. If there is anything negative to say about the film, it would be that it’s about ten minutes too long. There are a couple scenes toward the end of Emily’s coma (and that’s not a spoiler because we know the real Emily lived to co-write the screenplay along with Nanjiani) that could have benefitted from some tightening up.

If you’re looking for a light, fun, date-night film to watch at the cinema this weekend, THE BIG SICK is it.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live in RTHK Radio 4’s studio on Thursday, September 28th at 8:30 am HK time!

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