A rom-com worthy of Judd Apatow.
The Big Sick
Director: Michael Showalter (Hello My Name is Doris)
Screenplay: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Cast: Nanjiana (Central Intelligence), Zoe Kazan (Our Brand is Crisis)
Runtime: 2 hr
by John DeSando
Not every indie comedy can buffet jokes about The X-Files and ISIS in practically the same breath, but director Michael Showalter does it with understated ease in The Big Sick. Be prepared to chuckle a bit over the pop-cult references and weep a bit over the heroine's hospitalization. Also be prepared to laugh about arranged marriages, Pakistani style, and a meet-cute that doesn’t always bring a smile.
The anchor of this layered comedy is Kumail Nanjiani, not only a subtly smooth standup comedian but also a handsome leading man, whose low-key approach to ambition and love puts him in the pantheon of heroes who are believable, self-effacing, and charming. The story is built around his courtship of Emily (Zoe Kazan) based on his wife, Emily V, Gordon, who is co-writer of this warm, sentimental and ultimately realistic screenplay.
Perhaps that realism is just what so endeared me to this dramedy because it fairly depicts the humor of competing cultures and the strains of everyday life in standup comedy Chicago and the world. Yet, it is lighthearted rather than grim, with comic toss-off lines that beg for a return to the film to enjoy the ones you may have missed.
You may also return to see the star turns of Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily’s parents, Beth and Terry. The two pros can jump from flip to serious in a flash. They alone are a whole film experience wrapped in another film.
The Big Sick is more mood and tone than plot, a quiet reflection of the complicated lives that face more than decisions about sleeping around or telling your family all about your life. Although you may have experienced the cute lover suddenly rushed to hospital in countless other romcoms, producer Judd Apatow has made sure you will laugh as you enjoy his iconic comedies, now in a higher form than ever, and wax philosophical at the slings and arrows of love in different cultures.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com