Monday, 24 July 2017

The Big Sick

Regular readers will know that I am not a big fan of romantic comedies, or of comedies in general (certainly not of most of those coming out of Hollywood), and I certainly can’t trust the critics, whose tastes in comedies are clearly very different from my own. So when I say I’ve watched a truly hilarious (though also very serious at times) rom-com that I would recommend to almost everyone, it means something special has occurred. It’s called The Big Sick (directed by Michael Showalter). 

Based on true events in the life of the two writers (including Kumail Nanjiani, the actor who plays our protagonist), The Big Sick tells the story of Kumail, a Pakistani immigrant living in Chicago who is trying to make it as a stand-up comedian and actor/writer. A young woman in the audience one night (Emily, played by Zoe Kazan) attracts his attention and the romance part of the rom-com begins. It’s an unusual relationship, highlighted by the fact that Kumail needs to keep it secret from his family, especially his mother (Zenobia Shroff), who asks nothing from her son other than that he marry a Pakistani woman (she keeps inviting available women over when Kumail is having supper with his family, but Kumail is not interested). When Emily goes to the hospital with a serious infection, Kumail gets to meet her parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) who are equally challenging for the relationship. 

Much of The Big Sick is, as I mentioned, serious drama, and that’s not a bad thing, but what makes the film special is the humour, which is remarkable because it’s actually funny. Indeed, The Big Sick is one of the funniest comedies I’ve seen this century. Nanjiani’s acting is spot-on (it should be, since he’s playing himself), with Kazan providing excellent support. Hunter and Romano are at the top of their game as Emily’s parents, and Shroff and Anupam Kher are excellent as Kumail’s parents. 

Well-directed and sharply-written (by Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon), The Big Sick feels natural, authentic and wise in a way very unlike its often juvenile counterparts. Its only flaw is the stand-up comedy theme that sometimes carries over too much to Kumail’s life.

Good rom-coms are a rarity, so don’t miss this one (though note that this is an adult comedy). The Big Sick gets a solid ***+, verging on ****. My mug is up.

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