MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Michael Showalter. Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan.
It’s always interesting to hear from couples in committed relationships about how they first met. The Big Sick is a semi-autographical comedy-drama written by comedian/actor Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, comedy writer Emily V. Gordon based on their courtship, and how fate and persistence brought them together; it’s unique, to say the least.
Kumail (Nanjiani) is an Uber driver and standup comic whose career is beginning to take off (slowly) in Chicago. He is also a Pakistani immigrant whose family moved to America in order to make better opportunities for their sons. It is a Pakistani tradition to arrange marriages for adult children. Kumail’s older brother Naveed (Adeel Akhtar) is content with his wife, but Kumail is having a hard time warming up to the endless parade of potential mates that his mother (Anupam Kher) brings to their family dinners; each woman brings a photo and a resume that are dutifully stored in a cigar box after the visit.
One evening, while performing, Kumail is heckled by Emily (Kazan), a grad student studying to be a therapist. They enjoy a night together but their cultural differences continue to be a major impediment. When Emily discovers Kumail’s cigar box filled with photos of the dozens of women who have visited him, his protestations are not enough to persuade her of his loyalty. Emily ends the relationship.
Then one night the phone rings. A friend of Emily’s tells Kumail that Emily is in the ER of a local hospital and there are no family members nearby. He rushes to the hospital only moments before Emily has to be placed in an induced coma to fight an aggressive virus. When Emily’s parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) finally arrive, Kumail is given the brush-off by Emily’s mother who has only heard her daughter’s account of their relationship; Emily’s dad appreciates having another guy around during the long days of waiting for signs of recovery. The more time Kumail spends with Emily’s parents, the more he finds himself falling in love with this comatose girl.
The Big Sick is a funny film about serious stuff, reminding us that deep love is serious stuff, indeed. Kumail loves his family and respects their Muslim and cultural traditions, but also wants to find his own way. In a clever side plot, Kumail is mounting a one-man show in which he uses humor to explain Pakistan to a white audience. Both families are filled with lovable people who care about each other. The diverse cast includes Pakistani, Indian, and American actors, as well as several well-known comedians. It is sometimes crude and rude, but it is also sweet and endearing. As America continues to struggle with its many cultural divisions, The Big Sick may be just the movie that we need at this time.
Four halos: An entertaining rom-com that is also a thoughtful film about family, relationships, and love.
Two pitchforks: Casual sex is a part of the initial meetup; a lot of swearing; some racist comments; frank sexual talk, but no nudity or onscreen sexual acts.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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