The Big Sick – movie reviewby James Robins
Help us find and write the stories Kiwis need to read
Based on a true story, The Big Sick is one of the best American romantic comedies in a good while.
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.
The breakout Youtube star talks about 'How to Dad', paternity leave, and his own dad.Read more
The US President treats his Western allies to a tongue-lashing while cosying up to Vladimir Putin, causing alarm at home and around the world.Read more
Only Bernie Sanders comes out unscathed in Sacha Baron Cohen’s absurdist new series Who Is America?Read more
Quality rather than quantity drives New Zealand's organic wine producers.Read more
The computer scientist who has become a leading voice on the threat posed by killer robots describes himself as an “accidental activist”.Read more
For 35 years, Steve Thomas has been at the helm of Arts On Tour, taking musical and theatrical acts from Kaitaia to Stewart Island.Read more
Millenials are leading the rise of the eco economy.Read more
Rum, cigars and Cuban sandwiches are on the menu at new Ponsonby restaurant, Cuba Libre.Read more