The Big Sick (2017) Review
The Big Sick is directed by Michael Showalter (You're Whole, Hello, My Name is Doris) and stars Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley, Adventure Time), Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks, What If), Holly Hunter (The Incredibles, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond, Ice Age). The Big Sick is an early awards frontrunner, can a romantic comedy really compete in the awards race?
The Big Sick was this month's pick for 'Odeon Screen Unseen' - most times I've bought a ticket to this surprise screening event, I have been very impressed with what I've seen. Arrival. Inside Out. And now, The Big Sick. What a special, little film that is charming in every possible way. I really really liked it. A romantic comedy hasn't been this refreshing since Amy Schumer's Trainwreck which also came from producer, Judd Apatow- Apatow is somebody to watch when it comes to making ground-breaking rom-coms. Romantic comedies are a dying genre but it's films like The Big Sick that manage to keep the genre alive - if you get the opportunity, see and support this film. You will not regret it.
Going in, I didn't actually realise it was based on a true story but once finding out at the end, my respect and admiration for the film increased so much more. The Big Sick is real and authentic. It perfectly captures today's word and is incredibly timely. The Big Sick is the film the world needs right now- the world is becoming even more prejudiced and judgemental to people based on their religion and race and The Big Sick not only highlights that but tackles the issue and presents lead characters that everyone should follow by example. There are many moments in the film where preconceptions about Muslims are mentioned - lots to do with terrorism. However, the film handles it in such a tasteful and exemplary way. There's a really powerful scene in the film where Kumail (played by Kumail Nanjiani himself) is heckled at a stand up comedy show and is oppressed because of his race and religion - the man in the crowd tells him to go back to a terrorist group. Kumail as a person goes against every negative preconception some people unfairly have of the Muslim community - he's just a normal guy, regardless of his race or religion. Beth (Holly Hunter) sees this and stands up for him, the performance is exceptional and every line is powerful and makes the character so much more likeable. The world needs to see people unite, not just for people to sit and watch others tear others down. The Big Sick also addresses cultural differences- a main plot point is the conflicting views of arranged marriage. Emily (Zoe Kazan) is shocked and doesn't really understand why Kumail would go along with meeting 'potential wives' whereas for Kumail, this is what is parents genuinely think is best for him and force it upon him. I just think The Big Sick was really brave to just be honest - it gave a true representation of an American Muslim's perspective on life. Honestly, The Big Sick just be mandatory viewing for anybody who generalises the Muslim community based on extremists as it will remind them that everybody is human and we're not that different after all.
Narratively, the film is also very unconventional. I actually thought it was cool how the film was quite self-aware- towards the beginning, there isn't a clear plot and the film references that with a line along the lines of 'it will kick in in a minute, I promise'. And sure enough, a few scenes later, it did. Once again though, the narrative was very true- Emily goes to watch Kumail's show and afterwards they discuss it and she suggests that she show could be more personal. The next scene, the couple are asleep and Emily wakes in the middle of the night and wakes Kumail up and it is hinted that they will be going to chat in a diner. In most cliche rom-coms, this would be because Emily has thought of an amazing idea of Kumail's show during the night. But no, in The Big Sick, it's because Emily needs to go to the toilet (a number 2) and doesn't want to do it in Kumail's apartment- these are real worries people have in visitors houses! I've stayed away from most trailers and haven't read too much into The Big Sick but stupidly, it surprised me when Emily fell ill (duh, it's called The Big Sick) and I didn't expect it to become so dark and distressing. This turn of event's really did come as a surprise and it honestly felt like real life- you never know what is around the corner. Admittedly though, the film did become a little more generic with its ending but I suppose if its real life, they couldn't really change that!
The performances in this film are wonderful. I don't know how much credit I can give Kumail Nanjiani for playing well, Kumail Nanjiani. However, for a guy who doesn't really do feature length films, he held this film incredibly well. He was able to replicate the same emotions he probably felt at the times they actually happened. However, what really sold me on Nanjiani's performance was the dynamic chemistry he was able to have with co-star, Zoe Kazan. I really believed their romance and I liked how the film took it's time building a relationship between the two. Unlike most generic rom-coms, the tragedy didn't happen 10 minutes into the film, it occurred after some time so as an audience, we really believed the two as a real couple- in the short space of time they had been together, their relationship already had its ups and downs. Their chemistry was excellent and both actors should be credited for that. Zoe Kazan did a fantastic job - when out of the coma, she was likeable and warm and in the coma, she made for a perfect sleeping beauty. Side-note, this film actually showcased human kind and how we put aside our beliefs during tough times. Emily's family did not like Kumail at the beginning but they began to like and get through it with him as the film went on. I think one of this films MVPs was Holly Hunter - as I previously mentioned, she had a great moment during the standup show but I also found her character one of the most interesting. She really had an arc- at the beginning she was cold and unlikeable but slowly but surely, she became an incredibly charming and amiable person who kicked-ass and that is definitely down to Hunter's performance. Ray Romano also did a good job as the father figure. Everybody in this cast impressed and I hope they get the attention and appreciation they deserve.
The Big Sick had a perfect balance of comedic, often hilarious moments and some darker and more touching moments. On the surface, this is a sad film- illnesses are not nice but somehow, the film manages to make light of a really horrific situation. Some of my favourite moments included the clever social commentary. Some jokes I remember having big laughs, not just with me but the whole audience were the Malala standup joke, the audition-style potential wives just dropping in and a pretty dark joke about 9/11. But like I said, The Big Sick is also very sad- there are times of worry, hopelessness and fear. However, what really keeps spirits high is humanity and how we as a species, are always there for each other. Prepare to laugh, a lot but also shed a tear when watching The Big Sick.
The Big Sick nails everything when it comes to a romantic comedy - the romance, the comedy, the feels and the likeable characters. There's not much more that could have been done to make it better. The laughs are big and the lows are pretty sad. However, the film perfectly captures life in such a timely way- I don't think I've seen a more realistic representation of our world before. The acting is tremendous- Kumail Nanjiami does a terrific job of...playing himself. All jokes aside, the chemistry between Nanjiami and Kazan is special and Holly Hunter is exceptional. The Big Sick is a charming and special film with a lot on its mind that is really worth your time. This film is important.