SIFF Film Review – The Big Sick
The Big Sick
My favorite television show of all time is The X-Files. (Not season 10 though. There was one good episode, but the rest was CRAP.) My friend John recommended this podcast called The X-Files Files a couple of years ago hosted by this guy Kumail Nanjiani, who was on this show I wasn’t watching called Silicon Valley. The podcast was pretty good, but I especially liked the episodes where his wife Emily V. Gordon came on because she used to be a therapist, and I enjoyed the insight she brought to Fox Mulder’s character. (I like Mulder, but Scully was always my girl. And honestly, if it came right down to it, I would rather have Doggett than Mulder on my team because he seems more stable. Mulder can be a little squirrelly. Ok, I’ll stop talking about The X-Files now. Probably that’s not really going to happen.) I started following them on the Twitter, Kumail was on that one good episode of The X-Files revival, and then they got a deal to make a movie based on an incident from early on in their relationship where Emily was in a coma for a while. (Probably because I started following them on Twitter. The movie deal, not the coma.) That movie, The Big Sick is directed by Michael Showalter and is opening the Seattle International Film Festival. I am happy to report I have seen it, and it is great!
Kumail Nanjiani plays an up and coming comedian/Uber driver named Kumail Nanjiani who gets heckled one night by audience member Emily Gardiner (Zoe Kazan). They manage to hook up in spite of the fact that Emily wants to completely focus on grad school and he is commitment phobic. His issues stem from a basic immaturity about relationships and the fact his parents will disown him if he does not marry a Pakistani woman. He not only neglects to tell Emily his mother is constantly setting him up with possible wives, he hides their relationship from his family entirely. When she finds out, she’s understandably upset, and dumps his ass. He gets on with the comedy and the driving until he gets a call from one of Emily’s friends letting him know that Emily is in the emergency room and they need him to get over there and keep an eye on her because no one else is available. She’s not particularly happy to see him, and his discomfort is compounded when he has to pretend to be her husband so the hospital can put her in a medically induced coma. Her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) fly out to be with their daughter and Kumail has to juggle their hostility, his own feeling that he might have screwed up a good thing, cultural and familial pressures to marry, his career, and the fear that Emily may never recover.
This movie is a little hard to write about, because my review is basically “This is a lot of fun, you should go see it.” There’s some other stuff I could say, but that about sums it up. All the performances are good (I like watching Holly Hunter yell at people) and there were times when I laughed so hard I was a little embarrassed. It’s also nice to see Muslims just being regular people on the screen, and since I am the product of miscegenation, I tend to enjoy it when I see it. I laughed; I cried; I had a great time.
There are a couple of things that could have been done better. Kumail’s big showdown with his parents (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) was a little too by-the-book, and I felt Emily’s perspective could have been detailed more after she comes out of the coma. In fact, that’s the one thing that prevents this from being a great movie instead of just a really good one. It is Kumail’s story, told through his perspective, but when Emily does what she does right before the end of the film, it’s unclear why. It might have been interesting at that point to shift the emphasis to her point of view because the ending doesn’t entirely feel deserved. Also the movie is too long, but I say that about every movie so it should not be taken as a searing indictment when I say it here.
I’m always complaining about the state of the modern romantic comedy, but invariably, there are one or two films every year that make me look like a whining liar. This is one of them. I dunno, I feel like a lot of things kind of suck right now, and it’s really nice to watch a film where people care about each other and learn to find common ground. Sometimes I just want to laugh and have a good time, and this film gave me that. I really appreciate it.
The Big Sick opens the Seattle International Film Festival on May 18 at McCaw Hall.