KVIFF spotlight: The Big Sick review – romantic comedy reinvented

By Ryan Keating-Lambert


Comedy veteran Kumail Nanjiani brings us an unconventional romance full of life and love, whose characters bring a smile from ear-to-ear. However, unlike your typical romantic comedy, The Big Sick actually has soul.

Set in Chicago, Pakistani comedian Kumail plays himself as he deals with the trials and tribulations of his relationship to American Emily (Zoe Kazan) and the cultural differences they’re forced to confront. An unexpected turn of events sees Kumail trying to build relationships with Emily’s parents, as well as trying to keep his own.

The Big Sick was directed by Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris) and produced by Judd Apatow (Bridesmaids), who no doubt had an influence on the finished product, but it’s Nanjiani that’s brought his own trademark comedy touch. It is after all, based on his own life. He’s a hilarious character, and also fearless as he’s put in the heat of multiple family and relationship squabbles, which most regular people would run from in a heartbeat. However, the most interesting and entertaining characters are probably Emily’ parents.

Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano) are an unstoppable comedic force. Wonderful chemistry and you really see them grow over the course of the film. Hunter is superb as always and really gets the North Carolina fussy mother act down, and it’s generally just good to see Ray Romano in a role that’s not Ray Romano. God knows I think we’ve all seen enough Everybody Loves Raymond repeats over the years.

Kumail’s family are equally hilarious and the film really puts an emphasis on the controversy and ridiculousness of arranged marriage. Kumail’s box filled to the brim with photos of potential matches really hits the nail on the head.

But despite the laughs, The Big Sick does have an underlying darkness to it. It explores themes of family, acceptance and the painful reality that is cultural segregation – the film cleverly touches on the subject without ever being biased. Both sets of parents are equally stubborn, no matter their cultural background.

The film also goes through the motions of the roller coaster ride that is a standard relationship and never really leaves you on a high for too long – don’t expect a 90-minute laugh fest. Our couple pull off an adorable Uber relationship but it doesn’t take long for things to get lost in translation, so to speak.

One might say that their relationship develops a little too quickly. There seems to be more time spent on getting to know the couples struggles than getting to know the couple themselves. Problematic when it comes to empathising with them when the proverbial shit hits the fan. That being said though, the film is already quite long. Perhaps a more balanced equation of the ups and downs would have sufficed.

However, The Big Sick is a game changer. A standout in a genre that has become tedious and dull due to an excess of cheesy Hugh Grant movies. It’s a welcomed and modern change. The 500 Days of Summer of 2017.

Catch The Big Sick at the 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival June 30, and in local Prague cinemas with other festival contenders Amant Double and Axolotl Overkill in Aerofilms’ post festival Vary at Your Cinema programme from July 10.

Photo: Entertainment Weekly



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