Wonderful performances from the cast, stellar writing, and effortless chemistry between the two leads actors make The Big Sick a special film.
The film is framed around the courtship of comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his now-wife Emily Gordon (Zoe Kazan). In 2007 Nanjiani was an up and coming standup comedian in Chicago when he met Emily. They instantly had a spark and fell in love with one another. His family originates from Pakistan and their strict values on marriage end up being the wedge that breaks these two up after eight amazing months together. A month later, he gets a call that his ex-girlfriend is very sick and been admitted to a local hospital. Upon arriving, the attending physician drops the bombshell that Emily has to be placed into a medically induced coma right away due to an aggressive infection that is spreading. Nanjiani is bullied into signing the papers and now he has the tough task of letting her parents, Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter) know about what has transpired. To make matters worse, her parents aren’t exactly thrilled to be talking to the man who broke their daughter’s heart.
The casting of Emily was extremely important to overall success of the story. Zoe Kazan not only was the right person to play this role, she may be the only person with the emotional depth to pull this off other than perhaps Emily herself. She is someone who has wrapped herself up in academia for years and is very sure of herself. Even when Kumail’s girlfriend recognizes that this relationship has no logical way of being successful, she defies conventional wisdom and pushes forward. Why? In her words, “I’m overwhelmed by you.” Audiences will be overwhelmed by Kazan’s wonderful performance.
Loved all the sequences that took place during family meals at Kumail’s mother’s house. Zenobia Shroff plays his mother and at times steals the scenes she’s in with her son. How could you not love her fake astonishment when everytime someone suddenly shows up to visit them, it happens to be a young single Pakistani girl?
Romano and Hunter each delivered a level of authenticity to the film in their respective performances. Seeing Emily’s mother just loathe her daughter’s ex-boyfriend felt so real and yet so right on the screen. Showing her father be at a loss for words about Emily’s condition was a gut punch to the soul. There’s a sequence in the film late at night where he is explaining how hard it is to go through something like this, “to love something so much it hurts.” Romano shows this pain.
In the film, we see Kumail go through a whirlwind of emotion to reach an epiphany that this woman, who seemed to be out of his life is now someone he can’t live without. The fact that this film is based on a true story is astounding to me but for him to want to relive it on screen blows me away. His performance is equal parts raw, hilarious, touching, and downright heartbreaking.
One of my favorite lines of the year, “Let me give you some advice Kumail … love isn’t easy … that’s why they call it love.” was perfectly delivered by Romano. It truly sums up this whole story beautifully. Everyone is at the hospital because they love Emily in some way. They might have animosity towards each other, still be hurt because of past indiscretions, but that doesn’t change how they feel towards Emily. This was projected so effortlessly in each performance that it felt like we were watching a slice of real life unfold.
Director Micheal Showalter makes sure that film doesn’t lag and never loses it’s momentum especially when it pivots from hilarity to something very serious.
Even though Emily is in a coma for most of the 2nd half of the film, the story never loses its focus on her.
The Big Sick is a gut-wrenching yet hilarious account of one of the pivotal moments in a couple’s life. Audiences will have experienced a kaleidoscope of emotions once those final credits are done. One top of all of it all, the film is one of the most original releases this year. Very rarely can a film effectively morph from a lighthearted romantic comedy to something that’s completely fascinating. This is the type of film that has the look and feel of something that could stick around well into awards season and nothing would make me happier.