The Big Sick is a delightful heartwarming original romance and the
perfect antidote for the current fearful intolerant times threatening to
separate people from various backgrounds instead of uniting them which will
resonate with many filmgoers.
Kumail Nanjiani, a TV actor on HBO’s Silicon Valley, plays himself in 2007 when he was a struggling
comedian and dating his white Christian girlfriend Emily V. Gordon (played by
Zoe Kazan) who he met as a grad student at the comedy club in Chicago during
one of his standup routines and is based on their real-life romance.
Kumail dreams of making it big as a stand-up comic and actor
in Chicago. He practices his cultural brand of comedy at a small comedy club by
night and works as an Uber driver by day. His parents are devout Muslim Pakistani
Americans who are busy trying to match him up with a steady array of Pakistani
American girls who keep dropping by the house whenever he comes over for dinner.
Yes visions of Meet the Patels (2015)
and Punchline (1988) come to mind.
What Kumail is hiding from his parents is that he enjoys his
American lifestyle and is not interested in their cultural tradition of arranged
marriages. He just wants to be like other normal American guys his age, but he
can’t tell his girlfriend what his parents are expecting of him for fear of
losing her, his parents, or both.
Kumail and Emily have a charming playful chemistry together and
we enjoy watching their courtship flourish. But when the two are at a stage in
the relationship where Emily wants to meet his parents and for him to meet
hers, Kumail tries to stall while he figures out how to explain his family
situation. When she eventually finds out on her own, she’s heartbroken, accusing
him of lying to her and bitterly breaks up with him.
After the abrupt breakup they go their separate ways and
Kumail goes back to his old life of dating random girls he meets at the comedy
club. But it so happens that this time fate steps in to give them both a reality
check that will make them see each other in a whole new light and bring them
back together in a most unusual way.
Like a classic Bollywood musical where our hero couple, after
a magical courtship, suddenly separate during an angry disagreement, and then unexpectedly
find themselves drawn back together after a big tragic event, so Kumail and
Emily are reunited during a traumatic medical crisis when fate strikes a tragic
At this point The Big
Sick turns into an emotional hospital nightmare with hilarious awkward moments
when Kumail rushes to Emily’s bedside after he discovers that she has fallen
ill with a mysterious infection. He eventually finds himself face to face with
Emily’s parents who know all about what has happened between him and their
daughter and are none too happy to see him.
The situation for Kumail keeps getting more and more bizarre
as we are kept in suspense and stitches with Kumail’s sincere deadpan facial
expressions and dry humor when he’s confronted with serious doctor’s questions
and Emily’s worried parents, played perfectly and honestly by Holly Hunter and
Ray Romano, who are stuck in the hospital together for days while waiting for news
of Emily’s condition.
The Big Sick, which
premiered at Sundance, walks a fine line between comedy and tragedy, touching on
interracial relations, cross-cultural clashes, Islamophobia, and family bonds, resulting
in a big emotional payoff. The film’s significant themes of tolerance,
acceptance and diversity are a welcome trend made more relevant in today’s
tense political environment of Trump’s volatile America.