The Big Sick proves to be one of the best movies of the year, and one of the funniest dramedies ever.
Kumail Nanjiani (playing himself) is an aspiring stand-up comic who works with a group of comics (Aidy Bryant, Bo Burnham, and Kurt Braunohler) for the chance to perform at the Montreal Comedy Festival. After Emily (Zoe Kazan) heckles Kumail during his set, the two begin a relationship. Meanwhile, Kumail’s parents (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) are insistent that he enter into an arranged marriage with a Pakistani woman. Emily breaks up with Kumail once she finds out that he has been keeping this from her.
After their break-up, Kumail receives a call that Emily is sick in the hospital, and finds out that Emily must be placed in a medically-induced coma. He starts to bond with Emily’s parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter), while they wait for news about Emily. The Big Sick was written by the subjects of the movie, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordan, and was produced by Judd Apatow.
The Big Sick is one of the funniest movies of recent years (probably, by far, the funniest movie of 2017), and it is not even a straight comedy. Yes, The Big Sick deals with heavy subject material, but it never feels burdened by it. It somehow treats the issues with all the severity they deserve, yet almost never goes a minute without a solid laugh.
The main reason The Big Sick is consistently funny is because it finds humor in everything. From the height difference between Hunter and Romano, to Burnham and Bryant’s reactions at Kumail’s one-man show, to the fact Kumail is doing a one-man show, to even Kumail’s love for X-Files. Because of this, each joke is fresh. There is not a single interaction without a comedic moment, and this is not tiring because it feels so natural.
This genre of comedies about depressing topics is generally fantastic because it feels real. These movies negate the hyper-realism of melodramas and most comedies, merging the two together to form a monstrous hybrid that is accurately reflective of life. With this kind of material, the humor constantly battles the line of what is accepted. However, it does not cross the line, but challenges the audience to reconsider it.
Every single performance in The Big Sick is fantastic. There is not a standout performance in this movie because everyone is so great. It is also refreshing that there are no characters delegated to being comic relief. Every character is given comedic moments, yet it still feels like they’re fully developed and real people.
The actors deftly switch between the humor and the more serious moments, almost instantaneously, and it never feels jarring. This is successful through the brilliant direction of Michael Showalter.
It is important to note that The Big Sick has a Muslim romantic lead. This is not even a throwaway line for the sake of representation; Kumail’s religion is integral to the plot. The Big Sick does not shy away from facing bigotry head on. Islam in the film is not part of some social justice agenda, but represents the religion as it actually exists.
If this is not convincing enough to see the movie, because you may be turned off by it having been marketed as a romantic-comedy, know that it is much more. First and foremost, The Big Sick is an example of excellent filmmaking. If you want to assign it to a genre, it would fit best under comedy. Not romantic-comedy or dramatic-comedy — just comedy.
It is all of those genres, with each subgenre shifting in and out throughout the movie. By contrast, it is a comedy all the way through. Most romantic comedies do not put the love interest into a coma a quarter of the way into the movie.
Admittedly, this movie is not perfect. Parts of the final act do start to drag. This is not a terrible flaw, but it is noticeable considering the brisk pace of the rest of the film. Jokes feel spaced further apart and do not land as hard once the various events take a serious emotional toll on the characters. Thankfully, The Big Sick gets right back on track with an ending as strong as the majority of the movie.
The Big Sick is amazing. Just go see it, as soon as it is at a theater within a reasonable distance. Or just drive a few hours to see it anyway.