Review: The Big Sick

Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan in The Big Sick

The Big Sick, with the worst title ever inflicted on a movie, is a sweet and charming love story. One of the characters does get sick in the middle of the story. Beware the spoilers.

Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan in The Big Sick

Kumail Nanjiani plays himself in this dramedy about a Pakistani man who wants to make it as a stand up comedian. Early in the film he starts dating Emily (Zoe Kazan). They have a strange courtship. At first she discourages the idea that they are dating, or in a relationship. He makes up rules about not seeing her very often and refuses to introduce her to his family.

Kumail is a quiet, nonconfrontational man. His family includes his father (Anupam Kher), mother (Zenobia Shroff), and brother (Adeel Akhtar). They parade an endless stream of available Pakistani women before him in hopes he’ll marry one of them. They also expect him to become a lawyer.

He doesn’t tell his family he’s dating a white woman. He doesn’t tell them he’s doing stand up. He doesn’t tell them he’s not studying for the LSAT. Worse, he doesn’t tell Emily that Pakistanis rely on arranged marriages and he has a whole box full of photos of women who want to marry him.

Holly Hunter and Ray Romano in The Big Sick

Emily, on the other hand, wants to introduce Kumail to her parents – played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. She’s ready for some commitment.

The threat of meeting Emily’s parents makes Kumail finally tell Emily he’s expected to marry a Pakistani girl of his parents choosing.  Furious, Emily breaks it off.

After they’ve broken up, Kumail gets a late night phone call. Emily is in the hospital and needs someone to stay with her. Can he go? He does.

He gets to the hospital before Emily’s family and signs a document claiming to be her husband so she can get treatment. When Emily’s parents arrive, he realizes they are angry with him. Not because he’s Pakistani, but because he’s a cad. He broke Emily’s heart.

Emily is put in a coma and her condition is very serious. It takes a while for doctors to figure out why and get her the proper treatment.

When Emily comes out of the coma and begins to recover, she’s still mad at Kumail. He’s changed by her illness. He tells his parents the truth. They reject him from the family. He asks Emily to take him back and she says no.

His comedian friends are going to New York. No family, no girl. He decides to go, too.

He’s on stage doing his comedy act in New York when Emily shows up. The way they smile at each other is completely beautiful and we know they will get back together, as they should have done long ago.

Even if romantic comedies are not your thing, you should see The Big Sick. It makes the world a better place.I just described the plot of a million love stories you’ve seen before. But Kumail Nanjiani  is warm and kind and a true sweetheart. You’re rooting for the guy, in spite of how terribly he messes up his life. His parents are wonderfully bigoted and rigid. Overcoming 1000 years of culture isn’t easy. Emily’s parents are brilliant in their fear for their daughter and their acceptance of Kamail. It all works beautifully together to create great love story.

An undercurrent running through the film is what it means to be a Pakistani American: acceptance, tolerance, and respect are always at risk from the larger culture.

At the end we see photos of the real Emily, to whom Kumail is now married. Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani wrote The Big Sick together over a period of 2 years.

Even if romantic comedies are not your thing, you should see The Big Sick. It makes the world a better place. It’s available on Amazon Video.

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