Sunday, July 23, 2017

Now on Amazon Prime: The Big Sick (2017)

The Big Sick (2017) - Directed by Michael Showalter; Written by Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani; Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff, Adeel Akhtar, Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, David Alan Grier.

By Kenny Howell

The Big Sick is a romantic comedy, but it's story, which is based on real events, makes it hard to be that.

It is based on the true love story of Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and Emily V. Gordon. They dated for a bit, split up because of some cultural and family differences, then Gordon got really sick and ended up in a medically induced coma.

That ends up being the strength and the weakness of The Big Sick. It is a romantic comedy, but one half of the couple is in a coma for a good portion of the movie. However, that leads to the best parts of the film, which is Nanjiani meeting Emily's parents, and the bond they get over the time that Emily is sick. But then it also works against it because, at least for me, I never had that feeling that Kumail and Emily had to get together.

It's kind of unfair in a way because The Big Sick is trying to do something a bit different, because, after all, it is an unorthodox love story. It's a pretty complex problem, and Nanjiani and Gordon as screenwriters work well around that, and not just with the scenes with her parents, played in most likely Oscar nominated roles by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.

Part of that is Nanjiani's family. They are from Pakistan, so arranged marriage is still very much a part of their culture. That leads to his mother (Zenobia Shroff), who so desperately wants Kumail to get married, setting him up constantly with women who just happen to "drop by" when he goes to his family's house for dinner. It is mandatory in the family to have an arranged marriage, so much so that he will be banished from it if he does not. It has happened before with other family members, and it makes it hard for him to see a future with Emily because he doesn't want to lose his family.

The movie could have handled it with a us vs. them approach, but it does not. Kumail's brother Naveed (Adeel Akhtar) was paired with a woman, and he is very happy, so are Kumail's parents. It becomes what is personally important for each person, and for some people it is the arranged marriage, some like Kumail it is not, which of course leads to strife. It really enriches the film, and could have been something just as a plot device, not something so thoroughly examined.

It's weird because I may be trying to hold The Big Sick to a standard it's not trying to be. It is not a typical romantic comedy in what we know as a romantic comedy. And it does so many things well outside of what we know in that genre, so much so that it doesn't even feel like one. It's something a bit different, and that is what I like. I just wanted that feeling that so many others have given me, and I never got it. That doesn't make it bad at all, I like this film quite a bit. It just may have made it very good instead of great.

The Big Sick is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Rating: ***1/2

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