I love a good romantic comedy, but I have to admit that the genre is often tired and played out.
But hark! I have good news, my dear friend! The Big Sick is a fresh and heartfelt romantic comedy with an extremely talented cast! I laughed, I cried, I accidentally kicked the back of the guy’s chair in front of me in the theater.
It’s hard to write about a movie that already has a lot of great reviews out there, because what can you say that hasn’t already been said by a seasoned critic or a better writer? And of course, my comments about the movie are never going to be as funny or charming as the movie itself, so why bother saying anything?
Alright, now that I’ve mentioned the reasons I shouldn’t write about The Big Sick – by the way, people love when you start a review with qualifiers about how you shouldn’t write about something – I’m going to write about it anyway.
For those who haven’t seen it, The Big Sick follows the real-life love story of Pakistani-American stand-up comedian Kumail Nanjiani and psychology graduate student Emily V. Gordon (from here on out, I will be pretending I’m on a first name basis with both of them. Relatedly, I also pretend they are my good friends and they think I am very funny and also that this article is great).
Kumail (played very accurately by Kumail) and Emily (played wonderfully by Zoe Kazan) meet at Kumail’s stand-up show and quickly fall hard for one another, but their romance is cut short when Emily finds out that Kumail has been hiding her from his traditional, Muslim family who strongly believe in arranged marriage. Soon after, Emily falls ill and is put into a medically-induced coma. While Emily fights for her life, Kumail finds himself getting to know Emily’s family and coming to some important realizations about what really matters. Classic Kumail and Emily, you gotta love ’em!
Now that we’ve established the romance aspect of this romantic comedy, I know what you must be wondering: Is Ray Romano in this movie? The answer is yes, yes he is!
“But if Ray Romano is in this movie,” you say, “Why did they call it a romantic comedy and not a Romano comedy?” Great question. I believe this may be the most glaring fault of The Big Sick.
Now that we’ve established the romance aspect and the Romano aspect, you’re probably wondering if this romantic Romano comedy puts the comedy in comedy. And the answer is yes, yes, absolutely yes! The Big Sick is genuinely hilarious. It takes a grave situation and lightens the mood with well-placed jokes, but the film never loses its gravity. That’s no easy feat.
If it’s true what they say about comedy being the skin of a movie, then the heart of The Big Sick has to be its immensely likeable characters. You can’t help but fall for Kumail, who, yes, makes some big mistakes with Emily, but is consistently funny, sweet, and relatable. Even more notably, Emily is in a coma for a large chunk of the film but still manages to make us love her in the time she’s onscreen.
I personally decided Emily was my kind of gal when Kumail plays her a Vincent Price B-horror movie and she dryly asks if it’s some kind of compatibility test, saying sarcastically, “I love when men test me on my taste.” It’s a small, seemingly insignificant comment, but for me, a young woman who often struggles with calling men on this sort of thing, an off-hand remark like this reminds me that not only is it okay to do so, but you can do it lightheartedly and humorously.
Some Lightning Round Praises
Shout out to director Michael Showalter (who directed the sweet film Hello, My Name is Doris, which I also recommend for its great characters) and producer Judd Apatow (Superbad, Trainwreck, Bridesmaids…Come on, you know who he is).
Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are exquisite as Emily’s mother and father. They provide some of the most heartfelt moments and deepest belly laughs.
Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff do an excellent job of portraying Kumail’s parents with humor and depth and, notably, they are never villainized as trying to break up Emily and Kumail. They are real people who love their son and want the best for him.
Even the minor roles of the women Kumail’s mother puts in front of him are very funny and real, with some great lines (see: “The truth is out there!”).
And let’s not forget the always hilarious Aidy Bryant and Bo Burnham who play fellow stand-ups alongside Kumail. They’re funny both onstage and off, but in a very organic, realistic way. As Kumail remarks in his WTF with Marc Maron interview, “…Stand-up’s so hard to translate to a screen… We just wanted to present the stand-up as it was and never present it as like, this is good, or this is bad.” The Big Sick definitely achieves this sense of realism with its onstage comics.
Overall, I guess what I’m really trying to say is… Ray Romano is a glittering jewel for all of humanity and we must treasure him always.
Tired of my raving? You’re in luck! I’ll end this review by saying that The Big Sick is my favorite movie of the summer and I highly recommend you see it. It’s available for streaming everywhere now!
Looking for more? Follow Kumail and Emily on Twitter at @Kumailn and @EmilyVGordon. I also recommend listening to their interview on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast in which Kumail shows up having accidentally put on two pairs of underwear. Listen to it in all its hilarity here.
Pictures from The Big Sick press kit at http://lionsgatepublicity.com/theatrical/thebigsick/