Not much to say about my initial impressions. Although the trailer does make this movie seem a bit predictable in its humor. Middle eastern actors in leading roles, cue obvious 9/11 jokes. Also, throw in a “colored man can’t date white girl” plot. I won’t pretend to have seen a lot of movies with this premise, but it just seems a little too obvious that jokes like this would be made. I admit that there does seem to be a strong dramatic possibility what with an arranged marriage to another Pakistani girl that breaks up his relationship with the white girl, but he’s still in love with her and manages to get to know her parents while she’s in her coma. So there’s a chance this could be alright. I guess I’ll find out.
Oh, and it’s based on a true story, specifically how Kumail and his real-world wife Emily V. Gordon met. Should be interesting. And… revealing what the ending is. Oh well, the details are now more important. Here’s to hoping for some good writing.
Let’s take a look at the cast. Starring, we have Kumail Nanjiani, known for FIST FIGHT (2017), video game MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA (2017), TV show SILICON VALLEY, and the upcoming animated THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE (2017).
In support, we have Zoe Kazan (IT’S COMPLICATED , REVOLUTIONARY ROAD , and FRACTURE ), Holly Hunter (SONG TO SONG , BATMAN V SUPERMAN , TV show SAVING GRACE, and Pixar’s upcoming INCREDIBLES II ), and Ray Romano (ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE , and TV shows MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE and EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND).
Now for the crew. Directing is Michael Showalter, known for HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS (2016). Co-writing, we have Nanjiani and his real world wife Emily V. Gordon, known for TV shows with his name in them. Composing the score is Michael Andrews, known for NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY ROW (2016), DADDY’S HOME (2015), and the upcoming DADDY’S HOME 2 (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Brian Burgoyne, known for MY NAME IS DORIS and SEX ED (2014).
Overall, this could potentially be cute, but that trailer is not a good hand-shake, so to speak. But I’ll give it a fair shot.
This is my honest opinion of: THE BIG SICK
Based on true events. Kumail (himself) is a stand-up comedian and meets a pretty young woman named Emily (Zoe Kazan). Though the relationship isn’t intended to get very serious at first, it eventually evolves. Unfortunately for Kumail, his family is strictly Muslim, and his mother Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff) keeps trying to arrange marriages for him, despite his lack of interest that he knows he can’t voice. But at the height of their happiness together, Emily finds out that Kumail hasn’t told his family about her, and that he’s been lying about that they want to meet her and promptly break up. Not long after, Kumail gets a phone call that Emily has been hospitalized for a spreading infection that the doctors put her under a medically induced coma to treat. Through this experience, Kumail meets Emily’s parents Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter) as they bond through this trying time.
So I have this thing that I do. Big shock, I bring a small notepad to write down notes about the movies I see. Be it about a funny or good line worth remembering, or a something that confuses or infuriates me, it all goes in my little notepad. Makes sense, right? Well, this movie is so good that I couldn’t write down more than two notes. I think from the very first scene, I was completely hooked. I won’t say that it was beyond hilarious, or anything, but there was so much charm, likability, and heart to the film that I was enjoying it from the very beginning to the very end.
From the get-go, the relationship is played off like one of those, “I’m not interested in dating” kind of relationships. In a lesser movie, we’d know that they’d hook up at the end, but the movie speeds that cliché along and they do fall for each other early on, striking up a very likable romance.
Of course, the boiling conflict starts to bubble up. Kumail’s family, specifically his mother, keeps trying to hook him up with one Pakistani woman after another. A practice that he isn’t interested in, but doesn’t speak his mind because that would mean his family would disown him. Strong religious practices, you see. So he keeps the fact that his parents wouldn’t like Emily a secret from her, and he keeps the fact that he’s dating a white girl a secret from his family. He also, for whatever reason, keeps the head shots of all the women his mother makes him see in a little cigar box or whatever that was. All that drama comes to a head when Emily finds those pictures and realizes that Kumail has been lying about eventually meeting his parents, resulting in a fight, both being kind of cruel to each other, and eventually moving on for awhile.
Within this period of time, there is a really nice blend of comedy and drama. A true rom-com in every way. At it’s core, it’s a comedy. If it’s about a stand-up comedian, then it better be, right? But it’s not afraid to throw in some drama, either. The way Kumail and Emily bark and yell at each other during their fight gets pretty heavy and does feel like a legit shame that they couldn’t talk it through, despite understandable reasons. But it’s nice to know that despite that, Kumail does still have some love left for her when he gets that call from her friend that she’s in the hospital. In fact, when her condition worsens and the doctor needs written consent from her “husband” to move forward to perform surgery on her. But all in a span of probably just a minute, two at most, he’s conflicted because legally, what he did was probably no good. In fact, would a doctor really just look at any male in that room and assume he was the husband. I’m a little iffy on the details on this one. Anyway, on the other hand, she’s possibly dying and he made a choice that would obviously save her life in the end. Or maybe you could interpret the situation like the doctor didn’t give a shit and just wanted to help an ailing woman and would accept the consequences later. If this detail in Nanjiani’s life is true, then hallelujah, but I guess now we know why that hospital was number whatever-teen. Poor medical practices, but high morality, if that’s even the case. And maybe a wiser audience member wouldn’t take the events presented at face value, as I’m assuming that Nanjiani hasn’t been to medical school to accurately depict what exactly happened and just summed up what happened from his memory. Either way, the man knew how to write a tense scene.
Now we get into the meat of the story, when Kumail meets Emily’s parents Terry and Beth. Neither think much of Kumail at first, especially Beth, who almost downright hates him. Terry’s more lenient and in their next scene together, invites him to sit in the hospital cafeteria with them, eventually leading to Terry and Beth joining him for his comedy show. Kumail eventually gets heckled by a patron, a seriously racist ISIS remark against Kumail, and… I swear, I’m taking this scene to the grave with me as a movie moment for the ages, a five-foot nothing Holly Hunter lunging at a six foot jock. That was probably the hardest I’d ever laughed during this movie. They go home, have a few drinks, and eventually bond and everyone gets close. Here’s where I have another question mark, however. The transition, particularly with Beth, from mistrusting him to liking him seemed incredibly fast without the best reasons why. Literally, she didn’t want to go to his comedy club, one racist remark later, and then they’re practically friends that very night, sharing teen photos and all. I don’t think the motivation for fondness was properly explained. Not that the scenes weren’t cute and sweet, but everything felt sped up.
Truth be told, I wanted to say that my first real complaint about the movie was basically the premise: being in a loving relationship and lying throughout. Explosive break-ups are inevitable. But the more I think about it, as much as I dislike relationships built on a foundation of secrets and lies, this does line up with what this whole movie is supposed to be about: making mistakes, owning up to it, and making the attempt to do better and be better for it and the movie does back all that up, creating a surprisingly raw and thought-provoking narrative. Okay, sure, it’s not exactly ground-breaking in its story, but it is refreshingly well-written in a genre that either has to rely more on drama to elevate itself, or resort to bare-bone overly-raunchy comedy that usually backfires, making it a bad movie. This film is funny, charming, real, doesn’t shy away from drama, and far exceeded my expectations. If you get a chance to see this flick, I highly recommend it.
My honest rating for THE BIG SICK: a strong 4/5