Film Review: The Big Sick
A review of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon's film based on their own true story
Produced by: Judd Apatow
Director: Michael Showalter Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, and Anupam Kher Run Time: approximately 124 mins
[Disclosure: While I had a small role in assisting Amazon Studios and Lionsgate with their June 22nd Chicago Advance Screening at the Landark Century Cinema, and Chicago marketing of the film, this is my unbiased review.]
Kumail Nanjiani of Silicon Valley fame wrote this film with his wife, the very talented author, Emily V. Gordon, about the story of their relationship and how they got together. Kumail also stars in the film playing a fictionalized version of himself. Kumail plays a Pakistani American living and working in Chicago pursuing his dreams of a career in stand-up comedy whislt maintaing his bond with his very traditional muslim parents and brother.
Kumail meets Emily at one of his shows and they embark on a relationship that will ultimately challenge Kumail's parents' desire for Kumail to marry a traditional muslim woman. However, this is not the only obstacle the couple will face, as Emily is hospitalized with a then undiagnosed disease that could prove to be fatal. While Emily is in a coma fighting for her life, Kumail gets to know Emily's parents as, together, they face the most serious situation of their lives. Will Emily survive her health battle? Will Kumail survive Emily's parents? Will Kumail survive his own parents? Will Kumail's parents survive Kumail and Emily? See the film to find out!
This film in its entirety is very very very good. No really, it's good! The writing, direction, casting, the works...is brilliant. The movie is authentic, charming, modern, and incredibly funny. It is filled with love, laugther, and tremendous heart.
Zoe Kazan is adorably lovable as Emily. Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, and Anupam Kher are true pros. I mean they're incredibly talented lead stars in their own right, yet they fit the film in a supporting role without overpowering it. At 2 hours the movie is on the longer side for a non-CGI non superhero non-bollywood film, but I wouldn't have minded if it was even longer. I walked out wanting more of everything. They were all truly entertaining.
Kumail and Emily deserve kudos for a wonderfully balanced script that is both funny and dramatic. The casting is top-notch, and the director put the story together in a way that kept the audience constantly engaged without any dead spots. The stand-up comedy scenes, especially those featuring Kumail's fellow comedians were the perfect intermezzo between the main courses of the film.
I have been a fan of Kumail's since before his turn on Franklin and Bash, including his work on The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail. Silicon Valley also happens to be one of my favorite shows, so its no wonder that I enjoyed this film. But even if you don't walk into this movie a Kumail Nanjiani fan there's something in it for everyone, and you will certainly walk out happy that you spent your time and money watching this heart warming romantic comedy.
Some of the closing scenes of the film between Kumail and his mother and father are pitch perfect and incredibly important for those of us who were raised in similar environments. The film could have painted Kumail's parents as being obstinate and wrong, but instead they chose to show the nuance of their views and gave them a chance to articulate the reason that it was important for them that Kumail carry on their traditional values. The film also made it a point to show that Kumail would always respect and love his family even if he didn't agree with them. This is part of the balance and authenticiy that I found so charming about this movie.
The Not So Good
If it wasn't for that darn coma, we'd have gotten to see more of the lovely and talented Zoe Kazan. I, for one, wanted much more of the Kumail - Emily story, pre-coma, as the two leads had great on screen timing and chemistry.
I also felt that Ray Romano and Anupam Kher were underutilized in the film. Holly Hunter was tremendous, stealing almost ever scene she was in. However, I felt the wonderfully versatile Ray Romano could have been given a bigger opportunity to play a more dramatic role with more range a la his turn in Men of a Certain Age. There were times in the film where he appeared to be playing a variation of Ray Barone, the hapless oblivious father, rather than a father whose daughter is fighting for her life. Ray Romano was great in the movie. I enjoy him in pretty much everything I've seen of his, but he's just so talented that I think he could have been even better if he was given a broader role in the film.
The same goes for Anupam Kher who had some fantastic scenes with Kumail, especially at the end of the film. For those of you who aren't familiar with Hindi cinema, Kher is a legend and it is a joy to see him in films like this as well as Silver Linings Playbook. There just wasn't enough screen time to divy up between all these talented stars. But while the film focused heavily on the relationship between Kumail and Emily's parents, it would have been nice to see more of Kumail's parents as well. Maybe if there's a sequel? I hope there will be a follow-up to the film.
The Big Sick is the modern romantic comedy you need to see. If you enjoy films like 500 Days of Summer, When Harry Met Sally, Crazy Stupid Love, and Meet the Patels, you will love The Big Sick.
Overall I rate the film a 9 out of 10.
Be prepared to laugh a lot, and to become emotionally invested in this on-screen (as well as off-screen) couple beyond what you would have imagined. Plus, it happens to be set in Chicago, my hometown and favorite city in the world, so it's got that going for it...(read in a Bill Murray voice).
The worst part of the film for me was realizing that Kumail's high school photo looked waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better than mine and I'm probably never going to catch up to him.
Whether you agree or disagree, feel free to comment on this review with your feedback. I enjoy hearing what you all think, even if you think I’m wrong! You can also reach me at email@example.com