Opinion: “The Big Sick” (2017)

“So, uh, 9/11…” Terry says “No I mean, I’ve always wanted to have a conversation with…” he continues while gesturing at Kumail “…about it. With…People”
“You’ve never talked to people about 9/11?” Kumail asks
“No what’s your, what’s your stance?”
“What’s my stance on 9/11? Oh um, anti. It was a tragedy, I mean we lost 19 of our best guys.”

In this romantic comedy based on a true story, penned by the people who it happened to, we meet an uber-driver called Kumail, played by the real Kumail, who was born in Pakistan. Kumail falls in love with Emily, played by Zoe Kazan – not the real Emily – a girl from white/American origins. Their love is forbidden since in Kumail’s culture it’s obligatory to marry a Pakistani girl, chosen by his parents, something Emily most certainly isn’t. When faith strikes and Emily lands in the hospital, Kumail is forced to meet Emily’s parents, who have their own problems and demons to deal with and who don’t particularly like Kumail, while Kumail’s also struggling with family troubles.
The story itself sounds like something that has been told before a million times, but with an interracial twist to it and that twist is also the charm of the film, together with the chemistry between Kumail and Zoe Kazan.  mv5bzwm4yzzjotetzmu5zs00ztrklwfinjatztewnzizmdm5mjdmxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndg2mjuxnjm-_v1_sy1000_sx675_al_Said twist generated some funny moments, like the one which I’ve quoted at the beginning of this review, and made the movie stand out from the other films with a similar plot. The humor overall in the film was hilarious at times, and at other times just funny. There were a couple of jokes that made me laugh out loud and one of them was the one mentioned in the beginning. Kumail had perfect comedic timing and there was some funny banter between him and Emily which developed their relationship a bit in the first act of the movie so we’d care more about Emily when disaster struck in the second half. In that half, Kumail is forced to befriend Emily’s parents and undergoes a character arc, which was also handled nicely. During this act, Kumail’s friendship with Emily’s father, played by Ray Romano, starts to grow and also between them there were some funny moments. It’s nice to see Ray Romano in something where he can be funny again. So as I’ve said: the jokes were funny, so that isn’t really a problem. What is, in fact, a minor problem, is that they weren’t that daring with the things they said. Everything was pretty held back and played “safe”, which is a shame because there was quite a lot of now wasted potential. It’s not that big of a deal, though. Safe does not equal bad, it just could’ve been more than what it was.


Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani in “The Big Sick” –  2017


The visual directing of the film was also played safely. There were no risks taken which causes you to have a film made where they’ve followed the rules of the book very carefully. But then again, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just makes the film feel less original than it could’ve been. The visual style is very basic, with lots of use of natural frames in the shots, which mostly were doors, through which we can see one of the characters talking to another. With that I don’t mean to say that the film was directed badly, it was far from a badly directed movie. Michael Showalter was able to juggle between numerous themes seamlessly, which is quite big of a task since the film consists out of a  wide variety of different themes.  The dramatic scenes were also done very well. These were saddening, while still containing some form of humor, same goes for the social commentary that’s in the film. The commentary is pretty straightforward, to say the least, but they succeeded at portraying it in a funny, yet confronting way, which I found to be a very redeeming aspect.


Holly Hunter and Ray Romano in “The Big Sick” – 2017


The acting was all around fantastic; Zoe Kazan gave a brilliant performance for how long we saw her, as she spends most of the movies running time in a coma. Her character also had an interesting dynamic when she got out of that coma – I won’t spoil the interesting dynamic and her getting out of the coma is not a spoiler since it’s based on a true story and that the woman she’s playing co-wrote the movie -, which Zoe Kazan portrayed very well. Kumail Nanjiani also gave a very good performance both in the comedic moments and in the more dramatic moments. The one that really needs to be mentioned is Holly Hunter, who played Emily’s mother; she was, in my opinion, the best out of the whole ensemble.

In the end, The Big Sick was a good, but safe romantic dramedy, that could’ve been more. The jokes were funny and the performances were really good. The visual style of directing was by the books, but that didn’t mean the film was badly directed. Michael Showalter did an amazing job at blending all the different themes together in a nice and beautiful way. That’s why this one gets a B+.

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