The Big Sick movie review: Easily the best romantic comedy of 2017
The genre of romantic comedy has been stagnant for a while now. While many films have taken the formulaic romcom route in the hopes of success, few in recent memory have actually managed any success, either box office or critical. The Big Sick breaks this trend, and it does so effortlessly.
The movie, written by lead actor Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon, is based on the real-life story of how they met, a courtship interrupted, first by opposition from Nanjiani’s Pakistani family, and then, most significantly, when Emily had to be put into a medically induced coma due to a lung infection (hence the movie's title).
If you think that either or both of these obstacles don't sound ideal for a romantic comedy, you'd almost always be right. The Big Sick, though, is the exception to this rule. With Nanjiani playing himself, and Zoe Kazan in the role of Emily, the film manages to navigate even the gravest of situations with tenderness and humour.
The chemistry between Kazan and Nanjiani doesn't remind one of the great Hollywood romances, but it feels infinitely more realistic and human instead. The drama and glamour of the usual film romance is substituted with the clumsy awkwardness that typifies most fledgling relationships. That need to impress, to seem cool, and that fear of letting one's guard down.
The supporting cast, with Anupam Kher playing Nanjiani’s father and Ray Romano playing Emily's father, also add humanity and sincerity. They do not impart grand wisdom, but speak simply and from the heart. All of this is elevated by the humour, which not only helps to lighten the mood, but serves as a believable coping mechanism for the characters to deal with the gravity of the situations facing them.
The immigrant story
While Emily's coma is the most major event in the movie, Nanjiani's own family, Pakistani immigrants trying to make their way in America, form an integral part of the story too.
This is subject matter that is becoming increasingly common with the advent of immigrant actors in the mainstream. We've seen it in Aziz Ansari’s Masters of None TV series, as well as in Hassan Minhaj’s recent stand-up hit Homecoming. Nanjiani also goes this route, and the result is splendid.
His family, consisting of his parents, brother, and sister-in-law, are the typical subcontinental family. Tight-knit, caring, well-meaning, but ultimately conservative and dogmatic.
Their interactions, usually in their living room introducing Nanjiani to potential brides, or around their dining table, remind one of so many family get togethers, where the traditional sensibilities of the older members, and the progressiveness of the younger ones try to coexist without too much friction.
In Nanjiani's case, it his his love for a white, American woman, that ultimately tests his family's bond, and the scenes involving this conflict are genuinely saddening, even if there is always a hint of comic relief lurking around the corner.
His journey with Emily's parents as well, showcase an America that is still coming to terms with multiculturalism, still finding commonalities that can all too often be lost in first impressions and preconceived notions. Ultimately, all of this manages to raise the film, making it more meaningful than just the usual romcom trope of unlikely partners finding true love.
Should you see it?
Absolutely. Even if you don't like romcoms, and we're not big on them either, there's little chance you won't like The Big Sick. Nanjiani's great, the humour is on point, and the performances and chemistry seal the deal.