“The Big Sick”: A Rom-Com with True Issues

The movie’s so good…in part because of the degree to which it considers marriage not just as a relationship between two people but between two families. Alison Willmore, Buzzfeed, regarding The Big Sick

Michael Showalter‘s The Big Sick is receiving some of the best movie reviews of the year—but first, what’s with that title? Anthony Lane, New Yorker, notes that it’s “both a turnoff and a spoiler”:

You know at once that someone’s health, in the course of the movie, is going to collapse. The someone turns out to be Emily (Zoe Kazan), a student who goes to the hospital with such a serious infection that she is put into an induced coma. Word of her suffering reaches her ex-boyfriend Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani), who hastens to visit her and, as the days crawl by, begins to reflect on how ex he wants to be.

Emily is studying psychology in graduate school when viewers first meet her, and the real-life Emily V. Gordon did become a therapist, eventually switching to writing. Another real-life thing: she winds up recovering from her health crisis and marrying comedian/actor/writer Kumail Nanjiani

And what about the illness Emily contracts in the film? Andrew Lapin, NPR: “…(T)he real Gordon has a rare autoimmune disorder called adult-onset Still’s disease (AOSD), a form of arthritis that can (and does) shut down major organs in the body…The Big Sick is the first ‘hospital film’ in a while that makes us feel the stakes of a vicious mystery disease in our guts.”

As rom-coms go, it’s not typical. David Sims, The Atlantic: “The Big Sick resembles three great, swoony sitcoms mashed together: It’s a typical meet-cute (between Kumail and Emily), a nuanced generation-gap story (between Kumail and his parents), and, well, an extremely atypical meet-cute (between Kumail and Emily’s parents).”

Christy Lemire, rogerebert.com, describes Kumail’s family: “…devout Muslims who insist on arranging a marriage for him. His older brother, Naveed (Adeel Akhtar), already has a wife and seems content. His parents (Bollywood legend Anupam Kher and theater veteran Zenobia Shroff, both lovely) just want him to be happy—as long as he carries on their cultural traditions. Caught between Pakistani and American identities, between Islam and agnosticism, Kumail is unsure of who he is—but he knows he can’t tell his family about the white woman who’s become so important to him.”

Adds Lemire about Emily’s parents, they’re “the nerdy, down-to-Earth Terry (Ray Romano) and the feisty, no-nonsense Beth (Holly Hunter).” Who are not quick to warm up to Kumail. “(T)he way Nanjiani, Romano and Hunter navigate their characters’ daily highs and lows—and dance around each other—is simultaneously pitch perfect and consistently surprising. Romano is great in an unusual dramatic role, but Hunter is just a fierce force of nature, finding both the anger and the pathos in this frustrated, frightened mom.”

Supporting roles include friends in Kumail’s comedy world—Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, and Kurt Braunohler.

You can watch the trailer below:

Selected Reviews

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: “Nanjiani and his wife/co-screenwriter Emily V. Gordon carved this romantic comedy out of her personal hospital experience and their own culture-clash relationship. Their hilarious and heartfelt script has a rare authenticity that pulls you in and keeps you glued to the screen.”

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: “Love means having to say you’re sorry — early and often. That’s one of the truisms in ‘The Big Sick,’ a joyous, generous-hearted romantic comedy that, even as it veers into difficult terrain, insists that we just need to keep on laughing.”

Emily Yoshida, Vulture: “And even if you are already aware that things end up fine…there’s still plenty of reason to keep watching. That’s the thing: Even if The Big Sick risks being too long, or too gently lovable, it’s certainly welcome counterprogramming for a clobbering summer.”

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