I’ve been saying since I started watching HBO’s great “Silicon Valley” that Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh) is the funniest person on television. In “The Big Sick,” he further demonstrates his comedic talent as both co-writer and leading man.
Based on true events in Nanjiani and his wife (and co-writer) Emily V. Gordon’s relationship, Nanjiani is a semi-fictional version of himself. Kumail works as a full-time Uber driver and standup comedian in Chicago where he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his shows. What starts as a fling blossoms into something serious for Kumail and Emily, but two things stand between them: his culture and her mysterious illness.
Most rom-coms have a couple meet in the first act, get together and break up in the second act, then reconcile in the final act via a ridiculous scenario. “The Big Sick” defies genre conventions, thanks to Nanjiani and Gordon’s experiences. This is a funny, sweet, and personal film.
Nanjiani shows gifted talent as his fictionalized self, going through a number of emotions. Kumail lies to his loved ones as a defense mechanism and learns that telling the truth helps insecurities. Kazan’s Emily is a great foil to Kumail since she hides certain things from him, which lead to both sad and awkwardly funny scenarios.
Ray Romano and Holly Hunter excel as Kazan’s parents, Beth and Terry. Hunter should be considered for award recognition. She’s high-strung, judgmental, but also an understanding mentor figure to Kumail. The second act primarily focuses on Kumail bonding with them and helping them overcome their differences. It’s nice to see a romantic comedy without the cliched antagonistic parents.
There are scenes with Kumail’s family that risk going this route, but Kumail’s parents’ (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) logic is understandable. They want Kumail to find happiness, but also consider their way in doing so.
“The Big Sick” is 124 minutes long, but it wastes no time with feelings. The montages are heartwarming, the arguments between Kumail and Emily are heartbreaking, and the standup sequences are insightful. For couples who need a date movie, “The Big Sick” is a perfect choice.