Friday, March 09, 2018

The Big Sick

Directed by Michael Showalter and written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick is the story of a Pakistani-American who falls for an American girl as their relationship is tested when the latter falls ill as he meets her parents. The film is based on the real-life relationship between Gordon and Nanjiani in which the latter stars as an aspiring comedian who is torn in his love for this young woman and being true to his own family. Also starring Zoe Kazan, Anupam Kher, Ray Romano, and Holly Hunter. The Big Sick is a charming and riveting film from Michael Showalter.

The film follows a Pakistani-American stand-up comedian trying to make it as he falls for a young American graduate student as they endure a relationship only for things to get complicated until a rare illness occurs where the comedian meets the young woman’s parents. It’s a film that explore a man who is dealing with expectations from his family in finding a Pakistani wife to marry as well as become an attorney yet he is more interested in becoming a comedian while being a driver for Uber to pay the bills. Upon meeting this young woman whom he embarks on a relationship with until they break up over things he hasn’t been able to tell her where he later gets a call from one of her friends that she’s in the hospital as her parents would arrive to watch over her as she’s in a coma. The film’s screenplay by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon that is based on their real life relationship on how they met and such does play into the many ups and downs expected in an interracial relationship between this Pakistani-American man and white woman as they live in Chicago.

Among the obstacles they face has to do with parents and how they would react as it’s something the character of Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is dealing with as he’s unsure what his parents would think of Emily (Zoe Kazan) as he chooses not to tell them about her as he’s also reluctant in meeting her parents over what they would think of him. When Emily becomes ill, he would meet her parents in Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano) who know about Kumail and appreciate the fact that he called them. Though they initially don’t want anything to do with him, they eventually get to know him as well as more about how Kumail and Emily broke up. Kumail’s time with Beth and Terry during the film’s second act is key to not just about Kumail dealing with the fear of having to tell his parents about Emily but also the realization that, despite their best interests for him, times are changing and he has to follow his heart but do it truthfully.

Michael Showalter’s direction is largely straightforward as it doesn’t really go for any kind of stylistic shots nor does it play into the conventions that is often expected in a romantic comedy. Shot largely on location in Chicago with bits of the film shot in New York City, the film does play into the world of comedy clubs where comedians try to get laughs as well as figure out what they should say and what routine they should go for. Even if it doesn’t work as Kumail would see a few of his peers try out ideas that is still in development as he is also working on a one-man show that is about himself and being Pakistani-American. While there are a few wide shots, Showalter would emphasize more on close-ups and medium shots to play into the developing relationship as well as some low-key comical moments of Kumail’s moments with his family where he would eat lunch/dinner with them as the recurring gag would include a prospective bride being invited by his mother Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff).

The comedy is light-hearted as the funnier moments are based through dialogue but there are also some dramatic moments as it relates to the seriousness of Emily’s illness and Kumail eventually telling his parents about her. Yet, Showalter knows that the film is a love story of the unconventional kind in how a man is willing to stand by his love one no matter how close to death she is. Even as it would prove for all of Kumail’s mistakes and hesitation in telling Emily about his devotion for his family only to see that he wants her to be part of it. Overall, Showalter crafts a touching yet witty film about an unlikely romance and devotion between a Pakistani-American comedian and a white graduate student.

Cinematographer Brian Burgoyne does excellent work with the cinematography as it’s largely straightforward in terms of the exterior/interior scenes in the day as well as how clubs are lit at night. Editor Robert Nassau does terrific work with the editing as it does have bits of style in a few jump-cuts in a montage as well as some rhythmic cuts for some of the film’s humor. Production designer Brandon Tonner-Connolly and art director Andy Eklund do fantastic work with the look of Kumail and Emily’s different apartments as well as the home of Kumail’s family.

Costume designer Sarah Mae Burton does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual with the exception of the traditional Pakistani clothing Kumail’s mother, sister-in-law, and some of the women he’s being forced to meet wear. Sound editor Tom Paul does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the comedy clubs as well as the sounds of the hospital in the waiting room. The film’s music by Michael Andrews is wonderful for its low-key score that mixes elements of ambient music with some traditional Pakistani music to play into the two worlds that Kumail and Emily live in while music supervisor Joe Rudge provides a fun soundtrack that mixes elements of pop, indie rock, and country music as it would help provide moments where Kumail finds himself connecting with Emily’s parents.

The casting by Gayle Keller is great as it feature some notable small roles from Linda Edmond as one of several doctors watching over Emily, Vella Lovell as a prospective bride for Kumail that he would meet during the film’s second act after accidentally snubbing her during a meeting he was supposed to have, Rebecca Naomi Jones as Emily’s friend Jessie, Kurt Braunohler as Kumail’s aspiring-comedian flatmate Chris, Shenaz Treasury as Naveed’s wife Fatima, Aidy Bryant as a fellow comedian in Mary who is trying to develop her own routines about herself, and David Alan Grier in a small role as the comedy club emcee/owner who organizes the line-up for all of the performances. Adeel Akhtar is terrific as Kumail’s brother Naveed as the only person in Kumail’s family that tells him about Emily as he knows that Kumail isn’t trying to hurt anyone but reveals that the relationship with Emily could still have severe consequences. Bo Burnham is superb as the comedian CJ who is also trying to get his break but often has criticisms about others over routines he feel that are tired.

Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff are excellent as Kumail’s parents with Kher as the father who is more lenient about Kumail’s choices while Shroff’s role as the mother is a more traditionalist woman who just wants her son to find a nice Pakistani woman to marry. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are brilliant as Emily’s parents with Hunter as the mother in Beth as someone who is more practical as she is concerned with making sure Emily is getting the best treatment while Romano is more reserved with some funny lines as well as giving Kumail advice on love as well as what he has to face as it relates to his parents. Zoe Kazan is amazing as Emily as a psychology grad student who heckles Kumail at a comedy club as she befriends and later falls for him while eventually falling ill as she later copes with the illness and the things that forced her to break-up with Kumail. Finally, there’s Kumail Nanjiani in an incredible performance in a semi-fictionalized version of himself as a stand-up comedian trying to get a break as he deals with Emily’s illness and his own fears of telling his parents about her as it’s a performance of great wit as well as humility when he learns about the seriousness of Emily’s illness.

The Big Sick is a sensational film from Michael Showalter. Featuring a great cast and a touching yet witty story about an interracial relationship that would grow stronger through a life-threatening event. It’s a film that definitely bring some new ideas to a genre that is in need of going into other directions as well as be a film that explore the idea of family and cultural traditions as well as how one person wants to follow his heart and not stray from traditional values. In the end, The Big Sick is a spectacular film from Michael Showalter.

Michael Showalter Films: (The Baxter) - Hello, My Name is Doris - (The Lovebirds (2020 film)) - The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021 film) - (Spoiler Alert)

© thevoid99 2018


Dell said...

I still need to watch this. Soon, I hope. Very soon.

Brittani Burnham said...

I really liked this and I'm so glad Kumail and Emily got an Oscar nomination for writing it. Great review!

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-I was finally able to get a copy of the film from local library as I've been wanting to see it for months and it is such a geme.

@Brittani-Thank you. I really enjoyed it and I'm also happy Kumail and Emily got an Oscar nod and won the Best First Screenplay prize at the Indie Spirits awards. I showed it to my mom and aunt last night and they loved it.