Nicely directed by Michael Showalter, “The Big Sick” runs along smoothly and entertainingly as it delves into standup comedy, a love story, a dangerous illness and the life of a Pakistani-American with emphasis on breaking loose from traditions even if it hurts his elders clinging to tradition.
The story written by wife and husband Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani is inspired by their relationship and real life events. In the film, noted actor and comedian Nanjiani plays Kumail, a version of himself trying to find success as a standup comic in Chicago. We see him working in a club and congenially attempting to be funny in his low-key style with an audience that can sometimes be difficult.
One night he is amusingly heckled by Emily (Zoe Kazan), and that leads directly to bed followed by an aborted effort at a relationship. They seem mismatched, as they bicker over differences. Kumail is awkward, and Emily, aspiring to be a therapist, is also resisting permanency. Put off by Kumail’s attitude, she breaks from the tenuous relationship. But when she suddenly becomes dreadfully ill as a result of what is diagnosed as a life threatening infection, Kumail heads for the hospital to give her support. The doctors in charge put Emily into an induced coma in order to treat her and she is unaware of his dogged presence.
Emily’s parents from North Carolina show up--Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano). At first they are hostile toward Kumail and try to ease him out of the picture. But the unfriendliness breaks down as they get to know him, and they also become an amusing part of the film.
Meanwhile, Kumail’s parents keep trying to fix him up with a succession of women invited to dinner in hope of an arranged marriage. They are quite nice, but he is steadfastly resistant, given his realization that he loves Emily and his not wanting any arranged marriage in any event. The film depicts the home problems that result, sometimes with humor as well as with angst as his traditional Muslim parents want him to conform.
The film succeeds in being gently romantic and winsome, largely because Kumail’s personality comes through with likability and sincerity. There are also some amusing standup comedy moments.
Just when one thinks that the film will not be tied up neatly as a plus, there is a cutesy ending. But as it dovetails to the real-life outcome, the ploy is pleasurably excusable. A Lionsgate release. Reviewed June 23, 2017.