The Big Sick SXSW Review: A Romantic Comedy That Defies the Genre
Romantic comedies are rarely more than something we use as a form of escapism and rarely do they depict anything that seems remotely real. In fact, they probably give us a lot of false expectations when it really comes down to it. However, when a romantic comedy is done in the right way, it can be a shining example of some of the best that cinema has to offer us. That is exactly what has been done with The Big Sick, a movie that could and probably should wind up in the awards season conversation at the end of the year.
Amazon's The Big Sick tells the real-life story of comedian Kumail Nanjiani and how he and his wife Emily Gordon fell in love. The two fall hard for one another and things seem great until Kumail's Pakistani traditionalist family drives a wedge between them. Things change when Emily mysteriously gets very sick and winds up in the hospital. Kumail is left to try and pick up the pieces and wrestle with his own family's disapproval, in addition to dealing with Emily's parents, who also have their own issues both with Kumail and one another.
By definition, The Big Sick is a romantic comedy. There is romance. There is comedy. But I am worried saying that could give the wrong impression. This movie transcends any of the most remote negativity that could possibly be associated with the term. It is hilarious through and through. Not forced, wacky situational hilarity but genuine humor born out of something very real. It also doesn't hurt that Kumail Nanjiani, as anyone who watches Silicon Valley or really anything he does knows, is easily one of the most effortlessly hilarious people working right now. Very funny people such as Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, Kurt Braunohler and Ray Romano were also wisely used to fill out the supporting cast. Lots of very talented and funny people coupled with great, personal writing make for a winning combination here.
Outside of funny and genuinely touching, if there is one thing The Big Sick is, it is deeply personal. That is so very clear while watching the movie. This is a man and a woman putting their actual, very fascinating story out there for everyone to see. While Emily Gordon did not act in the movie, with Zoe Kazan playing her instead, Kumail Nanjiani is playing himself and it adds so much. There is also a major element of what it is like to be Pakistani while living in America. It isn't heavy-handed, but it is a big part of the movie and lends a very unique perspective. Those clamoring for more diversity in movies need to go see The Big Sick because it is diverse but accessibly diverse. It never feels alienating to the audience which is so important.
The insane charm and delight of The Big Sick can not be overstated and this could wind up being one of those rare comedies that becomes an actual awards season contender. Director Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris) will be owed a lot of credit for executing this thing to perfection. Also Holly Hunter, who plays Emily's mom, could possibly be looking at a Best Supporting Actress nomination. She is so good it might make you even more mad about how wasted she was in something like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. But really, if one and only one thing deserves to be recognized here, it is the screenplay from Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. This movie was going to live or die by the words on the page and given how good The Big Sick is, it is impossible to say they did anything but nail it in the hardest way a thing can be nailed.
I truly can't think of anyone who wouldn't enjoy this movie. It has a ton of heart, your cheeks will hurt from laughing, it has a lot of serious and genuine "tug at the ol' heartstrings" moments. It is also paced perfectly, meaning there is hardly a dull moment to be found. The Big Sick is truly worthy of every shred of praise it gets and is worth every penny that Amazon spent on it at Sundance. Every penny.