Film Review: THE BIG SICK (USA 2017) ***

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the big sickA couple deals with their cultural differences as their relationship grows.

Director: Michael Showalter
Writers: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Stars: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter

Review by Gilbert Seah
When Kumail sees the girl he is dating, Emily in a coma in the hospital, he tells himself that if she ever gets out of this, he would marry her. It would be difficult for one not to feel for this romantic affair, especially when the incident is true. This is what differentiates THE BIG SICK from most romantic comedies. THE BIG SICK is based on the real-life courtship between Kumail Nanjiani and his now-wife, Emily V. Gordon. Nanjiani plays himself using the same first name in the film while Emily is played by Zoe Kazan. Hi real wife co-wrote the screenplay with her husband for the film.
The film project began when producer Judd Apatow (KNOCKED UP) met Nanjiani after he did his stand-up comic routine. So, there are a lot of stand-up routines in the film. In fact, a lot of the dialogue spoken during the film would be typical of what comes out of the mouths of a stand-up comic. This is here a good thing, as the film is pleasantly funny from start to end – dialogue-wise.

Despite the film based on true events and a real life Kumail, the romantic comedy falls into the same trap that most fall into. THE BIG STICK is a predictable Harlequin romance paperback type story complete with awkward first meeting, the necessary obstacles, in this case Emily finding out about Kumail’s other dates from the photographs in his box, not to mention her coma and his objecting parents. These obstacles are conveniently overcome for the couple to live happily ever after.

The film’s story is simple enough. While Kumail is performing stand-up comedy on stage, he is heckled (though she insists is a good heckle) by Emily, there as a spectator. An affair slowly develops. Meanwhile Kumail’s mother keeps setting him up for a Muslim bride. Kumail keeps this from Emily, though she finds out. Emily goes into a coma due to a rare decease and Kumail meets her parents forming a bond with them. It does not take a genius to figure out what happens in the end.

The film’s funniest parts come from Kumail’s Muslim parents. The mother is constantly trying to matchmake her son to marry a Muslim girl. The father is more tolerant but no less funny. Emil’s parents are funny too but they bring a more serious side to the film. The unexpected bonding between Emily’s parents and Kumail add a nice unexpected twist to the story.

The film’s humour is also heightened by having several other standup comics deliver their stand-up acts during throughout the film.

The film ends with shots of the real couple Kumail and the real Emily during the closing credits. THE BIG SICK is one of the better romantic comedies, credit to producer Apatow who seems to have the knack of discovering new comedy talent.


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