Movie Review: The Big Sick

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Amazon has been having a good track record for releasing and producing movies that have a slight bent on traditional stories. The Big Sick is the latest film to have that distinct slant on the romantic-comedy genre. It does not fit the traditional romantic portion of the genre because the romantic portion of the film happens within the first twenty minutes. The comedy is very subtle and nuanced that you might not find it that funny.

The movie revolves around Kumail, who is a struggling comedian and has a duality within his life. He has the life that his family believes he has, which is that of a potential lawyer that is about to take an exam to be able to be practicing. Then, there is his real life that consists of working for Uber and doing stand-up at the local comedy club in Chicago.

As opposed to being a movie about two people coming together, it really delves into the character of Kumail and his inability to straddle two lives and be happy at the same time. Kumail’s mother always brings potential wives over to the house, during family dinners, to meet Kumail and could possibly end in a traditional arranged marriage, which Kumail does not believe in. However, if he chooses to live the life of a normal, independent American, he could lose his family and have no further contact with them ever again.

Kumail’s connection with his family is strong but he is living a lie. Perfectly illustrated about his faith and ideology with his culture, he is forced to go downstairs to pray but instead of praying, Kumail sits in a chair and watches YouTube videos on his phone. Things are further complicated when he meets and falls in love with Emily (Zoe Kazan).

As usual in rom-coms, everything is going well until someone learns a secret about the other. In this case, Emily finds a cigar box full of pictures of various women that his mother had introduces Kumail too. Emily explodes and comes to realize that his family has no idea that she even exists. Kumail reveals that he is uncertain of a life to which his family is not involved in, explaining that is the end result if their relationship is discovered by his family. With that, their relationship ends.

The switch to this format is that Kumail is contacted by Emily’s friend to come to the hospital. Emily has been rushed to the hospital and they need someone to stay with her. Her roommate has some things to take care of at school and Kumail is the only one that knows her. He rushes to the hospital and lies that he is her husband to have her placed on a respirator. The hospital staff are trying to isolate the health issue, so Kumail stays and makes contact with her family.

From then on, it moves into the relationship between Emily’s father and mother and their budding relationship with Kumail that becomes the focus of the movie. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter have a great married couple relationship and the tension to underscore that there is something eating at their relationship. Kumail reluctantly bonds with Emily’s parents, which brings out what is more important to a person’s well-being. Emily’s parents had a similar situation with Beth’s parent, but the family eventually learned to accept him.

Loosely based on their real-life experience, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon wrote a script that functioned less like a romantic-comedy and more of a coming of age story. The script focused clearly on Kumail and the decisions he needs to make in his life. He has been playing his whole situation safe for a long time and has to make a choice in order to grow. Kumail needs to make an adult choice to do what he needs to do and deal with the consequences that result from his decision, for better or for worse.

The supporting cast of Emily and her parents rounds out the stellar cast. The movie plays less on the laughs and more on the heart of these characters. Kumail getting to the heart of their internal issue and reluctantly being drawn into their renewal. In the end, Kumail is attempting to win over the parent’s approval and Beth’s approval is harder to win over than he thinks. Keep in mind, he is not trying to win it over but he is dragged into it by his sense of sense and realizing that he can no longer live the life that he is “living” to this point.

The movie works on all cylinders as a dramedy with some cute moments of comedy. The performances drive the movie to its rom-com ending but the journey makes it worth it. In many cases of rom-coms, the male character is the one to make the change and eventually becomes better for it is here. However, the amount of losses, and gains, makes the movie seem more palatable than other entries in this genre. As it comes out this week on Blu-ray and DVD, I do recommend a rental viewing. It will be a non-offensive good time.