Monday, August 21, 2017

The Big Sick (2017)

The Big Sick is an old-fashioned romantic comedy—boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back—fitted out in a modern-day context of immigrants and post-9/11 American bigotry. So the boy, Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani), is basically a second-generation Pakistani raised in Chicago who wants to be a stand-up comic, but his family is traditional to the point where his parents assert the right to choose his wife for him. The girl, Emily (Zoe Kazan), is a white graduate student studying psychology, born and raised somewhere in the post-'60s New South. This is apparently based on a true story as the closing credits feature photos of the "real" Emily, cowriter of the screenplay with Nanjiani and also now his wife. Awww. The movie is also a Judd Apatow production and bears some of his signatures (chiefly the inept modern males, and much less so the gross-out stuff). Kumail and Emily meet in a club where he performs and they hit it off right away. It's manic quirky cute chemistry they have—he wants to show her movies like the original Night of the Living Dead and The Abominable Dr. Phibes, and they always end up making out almost as soon as the movie starts. But troubles arise when they start talking about meeting each other's family. Kumail has never mentioned Emily to his family and is concealing that from her. When she finds out, we enter the boy-loses-girl phase of the movie. They break up and stop seeing each other. Not long after, Kumail gets a frantic call from a friend of Emily's that Emily is sick in a hospital emergency room. It turns out she's so sick with an infection that she must be put in a coma to properly treat her. Next up are Emily's parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano), who steal the show the rest of the way. It's true I seem to be a natural fan of Holly Hunter, enjoying practically everything I've seen her in, but Romano is more of a recently acquired taste. I never saw the sitcom, but I liked him in Vinyl and he's really great here too. The parents have misgivings about Kumail because of what they know of the break-up, but, you know, this movie is headed for boy gets girl back, and the getting there is what's great about this one. Perfectly enjoyable and probably belongs on any shelf dedicated to the romantic comedy.

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