Don’t sleep on this one: without hesitation, The Big Sick is among the master class of 2017. This quirky romance effortlessly glides over nearly everything we’ve seen this year with grace and class. It’s a masterful execution within a genre typically characterized by cliché, and it’s an easy contender for sweeping the floor come awards season.
After receiving widespread critical acclaim with its limited release in June, Amazon Studios and Lionsgate have expanded the rollout of The Big Sick to give everyone the chance to fall in love with this elegant film. Boasting a lofty Rotten Tomatoes tally of currently 97 percent, it falls under only Get Out as the highest-praised feature of the year. Still not impressed? Keep reading.
The Big Sick tells the true story of the courtship of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. The sharp and alluring script was written by the couple themselves, and Nanjiani stars as himself. Comedy kingpin Judd Apatow produces along with Barry Mandel, and the movie features seamless direction from Michael Showalter, who is best known for writing Wet Hot American Summer, elevating an unremarkable career to stand amongst the giants.
This irresistible charmer loosely chronicles Kumail Nanjiani’s life story as a young and ambitious Pakistani immigrant struggling to break into the Chicago stand-up comedy scene. Kumail has grown up in a country rife with suspicion and misconception of his nationality, and his thorough understanding of the two cultures serves as a catalyst for hilarious raw and unpolished satire on stage.
One night, the comedian approaches a cute heckler (Zoe Kazan) to chastise her for distracting him during a set. The two sense an instant connection, and begin spending time together. The trouble is Kumail can’t tell his Pakistani parents about her. They are devout Muslims, and routinely set him up with local Pakistanis attempting to arrange a marriage for him. Kumail fears being ostracized like his cousin for dating a white girl, and the dilemma soon causes his romance with Emily to collapse.
Kumail tries to reconcile with her, but everything hits the brakes when she is put into a medically induced coma to determine the cause of a sudden major illness. Her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) rush in, and having heard their daughter bemoan her relationship issues, the situation between the two parties begins as very tenuous and awkward. The trio later begins to bond due to Kumail’s unwavering dedication to Emily throughout the ordeal.
The primary conflict here concerns a health crisis, a concept that is far from uncommon as far as romantic films go. However, the intimate experience this screenwriting couple has gained through having undergone the circumstance offers them profound insight and perspective on the smallest of details that fiction writers can only hope to achieve. In result, these authoritative storytellers deliver powerful, heartrending emotion.
The cast here presents easily the best acting showcase of the year thus far. Nanjiani’s work is Oscar-worthy, navigating his character’s clumsy interpretation of social cues with ease, emanating an anguished cultural identity beneath the jokes. Zoe Kazan exhibits a depth of melancholy behind the eyes. Ray Romano intersperses deadpan punch lines with malaise in his best role in years, and Holly Hunter expertly teeters the edge of excess as a zealous mother.
The exploration of family politics related to culture and religion have a precise applicability to the times we are living in, especially considering the Nanjianis are from the Middle East. In a particularly impactful scene, Kumail confronts his parents, asking them why they would bring him to America, only to consistently berate him for living an American life. This film offers a fascinating portrait of the barriers faced by immigrants as well as interracial couples.
Rarely does a movie come along that so competently intertwines hilarious comedy, robust drama, and pertinent intellectual debate. The Big Sick is a masterwork in its every essence, and it puts Michael Showalter and Kumail Nanjiani on the map as a virtuoso director and actor. This time, the hype is real. Go see the film before it becomes a household name this awards season.