Kumail Nanjiani, whom we better know as Dinesh from the HBO series Silicon Valley, is a well-known standup comedian who has done short roles in movies like Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Sex Tape. However, with The Big Sick, he has transitioned to be the main lead in a movie that is actually based on his life. It presents a touching chapter of his romance with his girlfriend and later wife, Emily, with whom he has co-written the movie. Judd Apatow has produced The Big Sick, while Michael Showalter has directed this one. The movie has received rave reviews at various film festivals and it is time for us to find out why. Here’s our review…
What’s it about
Like I said before, it is based on Nanjiani’s romance with his wife before they got married and before he became famous with his stint in Silicon Valley. Kumail plays himself, a Pakistani stand-up comedian who also works part-time as an Uber driver. His family (Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff, Adeel Akhtar, Shenaz Treasuryvala) is quite conservative and wants him to study law and marry only a Pakistani girl. During one of his shows, he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan). What starts off as a one-night stand begin to develop into a serious relationship. But Kumail’s reluctance to introduce her to her family leads to their breakup. Though Kumail moves on from that relationship, Emily returns back to his life, albeit through a very drastic incident.
Who doesn’t love a good love story? When I first saw the trailer of The Big Sick, I thought of it as something along the lines of 2 States set in America. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the movie is much much more than that, something I am not going to spoil here. It is even difficult to call the movie as a romantic flick; it’s more about how a man rediscovers love through his interactions with the girl’s parents as well as facing his own insecurities. Since it is based on real-life incidents, there is a relatability factor to the proceedings. The romance and the family drama feel so nuanced and believable. While the romantic portions between Kumail and Kazan are cute, building over Kumail’s love for B-horror movies, it is his interactions with her parents that have a bigger impact and form the crux of the movie.
Humour plays a huge part in the movie, and thankfully, it is not forcibly added. Instead, it allows itself to be played out in normal conversations and situation. Every main character in the movie is well-fleshed out, and you can thank the writing here for that. And of course, since the protagonist is a Pakistani, there are enough references to his nationality and how people are uncomfortable about it. But it is handled in a subtly funny manner, as evidenced in the scene where Kumail and Emily’s father awkwardly discuss 9/11. Or in that clapworthy scene where Emily’s mom, and later dad, takes down a racist punk for throwing racial slurs at Kumail during his show. Just as there is humour, there are also moments that will leave your eyes wet. Many such gems make The Big Sick leave you with a warm feeling inside.
Speaking of the performances, Kumail Nanjiani shows a different side of his here after being a pro at selfishness in Silicon Valley. While he excels in the lighter scenes, he is also effective in the scenes where he has to let out his emotions, like in the scene where he comes out to his parents about what he wants. Talking about the female lead, Hollywood, why are you ignoring this wonderful actress called Zoe Kazan? She was terrific in that underrated Ruby Sparks, and here too, she will charm you off your feet. Also, Kazan and Nanjiani share a wonderful chemistry. As Emily’s parents, Ray Romano and Holly Hunter make for a wonderful pair, despite the contrasting personality traits they had to portray. Even though Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff have lesser screentime, they are quite likeable in their roles. Anupam’s final scene with Kumail is a hoot! Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions) is endearing as well.
As the movie nears its conclusion, the screenplay becomes a little heavy and dragging. In these moments, the two-hour runtime feels a bit of a stretch. Thankfully, the conclusion is sweet, and will make you leave the theatres with a smile on your face. Also, the movie is not for those who expect the movie to be a cultural war of sorts.
P.S. – this is my personal grouse, but I expected at least a couple of Kumail’s co-stars from Silicon Valley to make some cameos here. At least, the superlatively amusing Zack Woods. Ah well…
What to do
The Big Sick is certainly the warmest romcom I have seen in recent times. When we complain that the romcom genre as a whole is not offering anything new to the patrons, The Big Sick shows us that there is enough life and charm in the genre. A highly recommended date movie that you should not miss with your beloved!
Reviewed by Sreeju Sudhakaran
**** Very good