The Big Sick – movie review

by James Robins / 10 August, 2017
RelatedArticlesModule - Big Sick review

Emily (Zoe Kazan) and boyfriend Kumail Nanjiani (playing himself) in The Big Sick.

Based on a true story, The Big Sick is one of the best American romantic comedies in a good while.

Morrissey sang that having a girlfriend in a coma was “really serious”. In The Big Sick, one of the best American romantic comedies to come along in some time, having a bed-bound, conked-out other half is both really serious and, surprisingly, brilliantly funny.

The girlfriend is Emily (Zoe Kazan), a wide-eyed psychology major with an infectious smile, who is struck down by a “big biological misunderstanding”.

The boyfriend at her bedside is Kumail Nanjiani (who wrote the script with his real-life wife, Emily V Gordon, and plays himself), a striving Pakistani-born stand-up comedian with a family determined to find him a wife by a thorough vetting process, rather than leaving it to the trial-and-error of Western dating.

We get the usual whirlwind montage: a first date consummated as Night of the Living Dead plays in the background; that warm fuzz of early yearning; the process of settling into the ebb and flow of a relationship.

But it all runs aground on Nanjiani’s deceit. For fear of angering his staunchly traditional parents, which could lead to his excommunication, he keeps their love hidden. A bitter fight ensues and Emily falls ill with the argument unresolved.

You start to wonder whether she’ll pull through, only to be wildly distracted by the arrival of her neurotic parents (Ray Romano, and Holly Hunter sporting a thick Raising Arizona-era accent), who enliven what could have been some turgid passages. Initially chilly towards Nanjiani, they eventually warm to his diffident and softly spoken manner.

That manner is the essence and ploy of Nanjiani’s comedy. His gags hinge on expectation. You lean into his faint lisp and guffaw loudly at an unexpected punchline. He’s asked about his stance on 9/11. “It was a tragedy,” he says. Pause. “We lost 19 of our best guys.”

Although it rushes and muddles its conclusion, The Big Sick is capably made, endlessly witty and at times sweetly affectionate.

Its likeability, compared with other examples of the genre, is the veracity of its story. There’s nothing funnier, or indeed more heartbreaking, than real life.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★★

This article was first published in the August 12, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Answering the tough questions on resettling refugees in New Zealand
84636 2017-12-18 00:00:00Z Social issues

Answering the tough questions on resettling refuge…

by Rachel O’Connor

1,000 former refugees will enjoy their first Kiwi Christmas this year. Half will be kids, oblivious to the resettlement debate that rages around them.

Read more
Worn-out mumps vaccine can leave people at risk
85083 2017-12-18 00:00:00Z Health

Worn-out mumps vaccine can leave people at risk

by Ruth Nichol

Today the All Blacks, tomorrow the rest of us, as worn-out mumps jabs leave people vulnerable.

Read more
Pukeko pests - and what to do with them
84324 2017-12-18 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Pukeko pests - and what to do with them

by Rebecca Hayter

Rebecca Hayter finds it takes a lot of smarts to outsmart a pukeko.

Read more
2017: A year of hard truths
84210 2017-12-17 00:00:00Z Currently

2017: A year of hard truths

by Graham Adams

Our national mantra of “She’ll be right” looks to have backfired. Graham Adams reflects on 2017.

Read more
Are salt-cured and pickled meats bad for your health?
84970 2017-12-17 00:00:00Z Health

Are salt-cured and pickled meats bad for your heal…

by Jennifer Bowden

Processed foods, such as ham, bacon and sausages, are bad news for our health, but what about salt-cured or pickled meat?

Read more
Hostage tells: How I outfoxed killer Antonie Dixon
83412 2017-12-16 00:00:00Z Crime

Hostage tells: How I outfoxed killer Antonie Dixon…

by Gareth Eyres

Ian Miller was held hostage in his Auckland home by meth-fuelled, gun-wielding killer Antonie Dixon. He'd never told his story. Until now.

Read more
The epilogue that sheds light on Antonie Dixon's dark deeds
83430 2017-12-16 00:00:00Z Crime

The epilogue that sheds light on Antonie Dixon's d…

by Gareth Eyres

How have those affected by Antonie Dixon's night of carnage fared nearly 15 years later?

Read more
Nokia and Motorola phones are making a comeback
84440 2017-12-16 00:00:00Z Technology

Nokia and Motorola phones are making a comeback

by Peter Griffin

It's been a long time since Nokia and Motorola ruled, but they're back with new mid-market smart phones.

Read more