Kumail Nanjiani (played by funnyman Kumail Nanjiani) is a Pakistani-American comedian who meets and falls in love with Emily (Zoe Kazan), a graduate student. Their relationship is already threatened by Kumail’s parents’ insistence that he marry a woman from a Pakistani family, when Emily becomes seriously ill. Written by Nanjiani (usually known for his co-star work in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Life as we Know It, and IFC’s Portlandia) and the actor’s wife Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick is a romantic comedy based on Nanjiani and Gordon’s real-life love story.
One of the biggest strengths of the film is the chemistry between the cast. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter both deliver exceptional performances as Emily’s parents, Terry and Beth. Nanjiani has proved his comic chops in his previous work, but it is impressive that he is able to hold his own alongside the more experienced Romano and Hunter even in dramatic scenes.
Both a tale of cross-cultural romance and an exploration of the ways that a person can be changed by a single, intense experience, The Big Sick manages to deliver laughs and feel real at the same time. Perhaps because the plot is based on the actual experiences of the writers, the interactions between the characters always feel genuine and believable. While it isn’t exactly breaking new ground in its examination of what happens when two people from different cultural backgrounds fall for each other, the humour and sincerity of the story keeps things from feeling too overdone. This is a plot that has been featured in several romantic comedies in recent years, and I think we can expect to see more to come – especially as North American cities become increasingly diverse and these stories become more commonplace.
The pacing and dialogue are also spot-on. The Big Sick knows exactly when to respect the gravity of the situations that its characters are in, and when to make us laugh. The result is a film that manages to tackle some very serious material without becoming too dark or heavy-handed. In a genre that is too often riddled with sappy dialogue and clichés, The Big Sick is a treasure that walks the perfect line between funny and sentimental.
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