REVIEW: The Big Sick
Directed by Michael Showalter
By Christopher Spencer
Directed by Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris), The Big Sick is written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the real-life married couple whose true story of their relationship and the hardships associated is told in this movie. Starring Nanjiani as himself, Zoe Kazan as Emily, and Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents.
The Big Sick is a curiously different comedy-drama. The main story is about Kumail dealing with Emily falling ill with horrible infections, and her parents interacting with Kumail in this time of pain and struggle. But the movie is also incredibly funny. That “sick girl” story could easily be another melodramatic sobfest, but Nanjiani and Gordon write in the truth of life: people use humour to ease the pain of sick loved ones and relationship woes.
It is in this writing that we find how brilliant The Big Sick really is. This is a movie that perfectly blends two tones that usually outshine one another when put together for other movies. We previously will see comedy and drama in a struggle for the story’s focus, but The Big Sick uses them enhance one another. No moment is too funny without remembering that a breaking heart can be behind that laugh, but nothing is too dark without being realistically broken by a resolving joke.
Nanjiani and Kazan have great, effective chemistry when they are together, and when Emily gets sick, we thus believe in Nanjiani’s devotion to staying by her side and helping her fight no matter what. They are wonderfully written characters that we deeply care for, Nanjiani holds the movie’s tone so well, and even Kazan’s Emily has a complete arc even though she’s comatose for about half the movie.
A surprise definitely comes in the brilliant performances from Romano and Hunter. They both nail the humour perfectly, precisely deliver the opposite emotions, and work as the loving, complicated backbone behind Kumail and Emily. Side characters from Kumail’s family and standup life are fun to watch, but his roommate Chris is annoying and unnecessary.
There is also a lot more going on in The Big Sick than just “guy loves girl, girl gets sick, guy fights to get girl back”. There are funny and emotional subplots of Kumail’s standup career, Emily’s parents’ tumultuous marriage, Emily’s complex thoughts post-coma, and Kumail trying to deal with his traditionalist Pakistani family while still loving Emily no matter what. These subplots enhance the movie beyond an expected simplicity, and fill us with plenty of sweet story to work through.
I do think that the wrap-up of all the stories is not the most effective section of the movie, but we still care so much about these lovely characters at the very end. The Big Sick is well-shot, beautifully written, perfectly performed, has solid-direction, and is one of the best comedy-dramas I’ve seen in a long time.