Sundance Journal: ‘The Big Sick’

'The Big Sick'

Movie Rating:


I have yet to watch an episode of HBO’s hit comedy ‘Silicon Valley’, so ‘The Big Sick’ was my introduction to Pakistani comedian-turned-actor/writer Kumail Nanjiani. With the help of producers Judd Apatow and Berry Mendel, Nanjiani makes his debut as the lead in an autobiographical dramedy that he co-wrote with his wife, Emily V. Gordon.

Like the films that Apatow writes and directs, ‘The Big Sick’ is a blend of comedy, reality, satire and dark drama. Unlike Apatow’s films, it’s not bloated and it retains its entertainment value.

Like most movies based on true stories, ‘The Big Sick’ features many elements that were created just for the sake of entertainment. However, the central elements to the story that seem too far out-there to be true happen exactly as they did in real life.

While trying to make a living in Chicago as a stand-up comedian, Kumail met a wonderful girl and the two hit it off. Not too much later, he received an unexpected call asking him to quickly get to the hospital because Emily had been admitted to the ER with a severe flu. Doctors discovered a major infection in her lungs and had to put her into a medically-induced coma. Having never met them, Kumail had to call her parents, let them know about the situation, then be with them for countless hours by her bedside. Without pandering to lowest common denominator humor or silly hijinks, this is one of the wildest ‘Meet the Parents’ scenarios I’ve ever heard of.

‘The Big Sick’ takes some liberties with these relationships, but at the same time, we’re introduced to a traditional Pakistani family on Kumail’s side. We learn about their traditions and arranged marriages. Because Kumail didn’t want to disappoint his parents, he didn’t tell them about Emily, causing a major disconnect with one of the most important aspects of his family.

Nanjiani brings a refreshing air to his character. There’s something unique about his leading role that you don’t get from most actors. Despite being sarcastic, he’s kind. It’s easy to sink into his mind and feelings as the story progresses. Zoe Kazan perfectly plays Emily. She’s absolutely sweet, but she’s also strong. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are the in-laws. Real-life comics Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant and Kurt Braunohler play Kumail’s best friends. The ensemble isn’t filled with huge stars, but they harmoniously work together to give the film a solid mix of laughs and cries.

‘The Big Sick’ is a genuinely funny drama that I highly recommend checking out when Amazon Studios releases it.

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