The Big Sick is an excellent if unconventional cultural divide romantic comedy

The Big Sick (2017) – Film Review

The Big Sick film poster 2017

The Big Sick film poster 2017

The Big Sick is a quirkily named romantic culture clash comedy from the Judd Apatow stable (directed by Michael Showalter) about a Pakistani American stand-up comedian who is an Uber driver to help pay the bills in his spare time.

Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) plays a version of himself getting together cross culture with Emily (Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks), a white non-Muslim American woman who he meets in the audience at one of his gigs.

Kumail, who prefers to be a westernised non-practicing Muslim-American, struggles to reconcile his burgeoning romance with Emily with his more traditional family, who want to arrange a marriage with a ‘more suitable’ Muslim woman.

In fact, he hasn’t even told them about Emily, knowing that he could be disowned by his own family if he defies their wishes, and he hasn’t even met Emily’s parents yet until a life threatening twist of fate forces matters.

Emily falls ill with an unidentified life threatening condition and her parents have to meet Kumail in less than perfect circumstances while he also has to juggle matters with his own parents who will inevitably find out what’s been going on.

If it sounds like an unbelievable plot then you need to know it’s actually heavily based on a true story and also stars the real life man on whom it’s based.

It’s a comedy about a stand-up comic so there are plenty of heartfelt laughs to be had, even uncomfortable ones about race, culture, religion, and politics, amongst some genuine moments of pathos.

The Big Sick has good chemistry and fresh dialogue

There’s good chemistry between the leads with a freshness about the dialogue throughout the film – it does seem like there’s an element of construction about the plot until you realise at the end that it all (mostly) happened for real.

It’s mainly a beautifully-written romantic comedy, though, with a very good supporting cast including Holly Hunter (The Incredibles) and Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond, Ice Age) as Emily’s parents while seasoned actor Anupam Kher and Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions, Pan) produce great turns as Kumail’s father and brother.

Kumail’s side of the family could be a little one-note without well-judged moments from Kher and Akhtar invoking Kumars at Number 42 style comedy at times before things get heavy but Emily’s parents get more screen time and they have some emotional moments of their own as Kumail gets to know them better during their time of crisis.

Hunter and Romano come close to overshadowing leading man Nanjiani’s relatively understated performance but there’s plenty of space in the two hour running time to let the changes in tone grow organically – allowing the drama to live alongside the comedy.

These days, comedies appear to go all out for the icky slapstick factor without much substance but, despite the title, The Big Sick is smart, emotional, and very funny.

The Big Sick (15; strong language, moderate sex references; 120 minutes)

Summary: THE BIG SICK is a US romantic comedy in which a stand-up comedian of Pakistani heritage, whose parents are trying to arrange his marriage to a partner they consider suitable, falls in love with a white woman.

Rating: **** (That increasingly rare heartwarming romantic comedy)