REVIEW: The Big Sick (2017)

Theatrical Release Poster – Amazon Studios / Lionsgate

The following is a review of The Big Sick – Directed by Michael Showalter.

In Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick, Kumail Nanjiani (played by himself), a Pakistani-American stand-up comedian, has fallen in love with a heckler, a white woman named Emily (played by Zoe Kazan). Kumail quickly starts a relationship with this woman, but he is not ready to tell his parents as they are very conservative and constantly shove Pakistani women in front of him whenever he visits his parents’ home.

When Emily finds Kumail’s pictures of all of these Pakistani women that he has no interest in dating – the X-Files as one of the women calls them – she becomes upset, and when she doesn’t see a future with Kumail if a relationship would wreck his relationship with his family, she decides to end the relationship.

Not long thereafter, Kumail gets a call from one of Emily’s friends who tells him that Emily has been hospitalized. A doctor tells him that she has a serious lung infection and that she needs to be placed in a medically induced coma. Kumail signs the permission form and contacts Emily’s parents. As Emily is recovering in a coma, Kumail stays by her side, much to the annoyance of Emily’s parents, who are well-aware of the fact that their relationship is over.

So, yeah, this film is based on a true story. A true story that, admittedly, does sound too good to be true. Indeed, too crazy to be true. But, to the best of my knowledge, it’s mostly true, even though they do take a few liberties with the story and what is real.

Not including musicals, The Big Sick is probably my favorite romantic comedy of the decade, unless you’d call Jonathan Levine’s 50/50 a romantic comedy (I think of it as more of a dramedy). That is high praise, but the film works hard to get it. The two leads are really good, and Kazan and Nanjiani’s connection almost seems genuine, even though only Nanjiani plays himself.

But, to me, it is the supporting characters that make this film shine as much as it does. The fiilmmakers juggle three sets of supporting characters and manage to give them all appropriate time to make an impact on the film. There is the excellent group of stand-up comedian friends that Kumail has, including CJ (played by Bo Burnham), then there is Nanjiani’s family, which, at almost all times, made me laugh, and, finally, there are Emily’s parents played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. They are all excellent in what I think is a sublimely sweet and realistic romantic comedy.

I only really have two problems with the film, but they are significant, to me. For one, I think the film is just way too long. The film basically stalls at one point, as one character is not ready to forgive another character. Rest assured, the film is never exhausting and it doesn’t stall for so long that it wrecks the film, but it is an issue to me. Now, it can be defended, and I have read an explanation given by Nanjiani online. The problem is well-defended — The Big Sick stalls for a reason, as the film leaves the hospital. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that its length hurts the film slightly.

Not to me, at the very least. Had the film been about fifteen-to-twenty minutes shorter, it would’ve gotten closer to the perfect score. The other problem that I have with The Big Sick is related* to its length. The ending of the film isn’t as satisfying a pay-off so that it excuses the length of the film. The Big Sick started off without any problems, but the filmmakers didn’t land the production safely at the finish line without a hitch.

When we look back on 2017, it’s films like these that are going to stick out for essentially revitalizing a genre that I no longer have been all that excited about. Because Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick is a unique and extremely charming and well-written romantic-comedy.

9 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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