Director: Michael Showalter.
Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Adeel Akhtar, Zenobia Shroff, Anupam Kher, Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant.
|"I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the cuteness."|
This rom-com is utterly refreshing, like a big bowl of ice cream after a serving of spicy food. Probably strawberry. Or chocolate. Whatever flavour you like - this film is that flavour.
The back story behind The Big Sick is also the err... front story (front story?). It's the true tale of Kumail Nanjiani (who plays himself) and his wife/co-writer Emily (played by Zoe Kazan, just to confuse matters).
After several meet-cutes and despite their best efforts to not fall in love, Kumail and Emily inevitably fall in love, only to fall out again very quickly when Emily discovers Kumail's Pakistani heritage means he will most likely be forced into an arranged marriage with a Pakistani girl.
But soon after the break-up, Emily falls ill and has to be placed in a medically induced coma. This leaves Kumail sitting in the hospital alongside Emily's parents (Romano and Hunter), who have never met Kumail but are fully aware Kumail and Emily have recently broken up.
It's interesting (and totally pointless, but when has that ever stopped me before) to wonder if this film would be as good if you knew it wasn't based on a true story. The plot almost feels too bizarre - it's in the realms of having people scoff "that would never happen in real life" even though it actually did. And obviously the film doesn't play out exactly like it happened in real life (these things never do), but the absurd situation is such a wonderful set-up, and its milked for every possible laugh. This weird mix of a culture-clash romance and a worst possible Meet The Parents is laden with potential and Nanjiani and his wife/co-writer Emily V. Gordon don't let it go to waste. The style of humour is wonderfully natural amid a strangely unnatural setting.
Nanjiani is great as a nervier version of himself. He's hapless, earnest, and dorky, making (hilarious but) ill-timed 9/11 jokes and having mental breakdowns at fast food drive-thrus or comedy open mic nights, but you want him to be your friend. It's easy to dismiss the performance of someone playing themselves, but he does a good job with the role, particularly when he's required to do some emotional heavy lifting.
He's surrounded by good co-stars. Romano has never been better and is perfectly cast as the hang-dog middle-aged dad, while Hunter is always excellent and shows the required mix of spark, spunk and maternal drive in a great role that blends the comedy and the drama. Kazan is also good, giving Emily the right amount of Pixie Dream Girl, but leaving out the Manic and making her seem like a real person for the bookending bits of the film when she's awake and gets to actually do stuff.
And then there's Kumail's family, who have fewer big moments but are just as important and just as well played. Bollywood legend Kher and scene-stealing Shroff as Kumail's parents are great, while Akhtar gets some hilarious lines as Kumail's brother.
The Big Sick has such an excellent set-up but could have been so easily botched. By keeping the tone predominantly light and the comedic style natural, it works a treat. This is perfect for date night and one of the better rom-coms in recent years.