The Big Sick Review
I have made it no secret, in previous reviews, that I have a low opinion of modern American comedies with their boring cinematography, awkward improvised dialogue and lazy storytelling. A new film came out this year, produced by Judd Apatow, written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, starring Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan and directed by Michael Showalter, called The Big Sick. It struck a chord at the theatre with 5-star reviews from NME, Time Out and The Financial Times; now it is out on DVD and Blu-ray, distributed by StudioCanal. I take a look to see if this modern Rom-Com deserves to be in your movie collection alongside the likes of When Harry Met Sally and 500 Days of Summer.
Kumail, a Pakistani Muslim immigrant to the United States, is a struggling stand-up comedian and Uber driver living in Chicago. At one of his shows he meets a masters student called Emily, the two start dating and eventually break up. After not seeing Emily for a while, Kumail gets a call from one of her friends saying that she is in hospital and needs to be put in a coma. Kumail must call Emily's parents and, over the course of the eight days Emily is in the hospital, will reconsider his life choices as he gets to know the parents of the girl he let go.
Writers Kumail Nanijiani and Emily V. Gordon based the film on how they met and fell in love. It is an intensely personal story, almost tragic, and one that they fill with great characters and wonderful jokes. If there is any improvisation, then I couldn't tell as all of the dialogue felt entirely natural and believable. Well, they say that you should write what you know and the writers understand their own lives and the dialogue and character moments trips along at a beautiful bounce.
Yes, the film has some issues when it comes to pacing. The film is essentially split into three different sections: the first time Kumail and Emily get together; getting to know Emily's parents while Emily is in a coma and the moment Kumail and Emily get back together. In my opinion, each of these sections taken separately is an excellent bit of comedy and romance writing. However, it is the transitions between these sections that I found to be lacking; for example, the break-up scene happens way too quickly. This might have been because the writing was too good, with me rooting for the couple to stay together because of the excellent chemistry that exists between Nanjiani and Kazan. But the editing doesn't allow for what is being said to breathe properly or feel realistic and it comes off as a piece of "and then" story-telling.
You can very easily ignore these problems with the plotting of the film because the acting is wonderful. Nanjiani is an intensely charismatic leading man, and he brings a star-studded cast filled with the likes of Ray Romano, Holly Hunter and Bo Burnam to new heights. He and Kazan have a natural chemistry that makes the romance feel all the more real. Zoe Kazan is a real revelation in this film exuding an easy charm that almost rivals Diane Keaton from Annie Hall. I would very happily watch this movie over and over again just for the cast of great characters, up to and including the smaller parts played by Utopia's Adeel Akhtar and Kurt Braunohler.
There is a delicate balance between the film’s funnier moments and the drama; sometimes the film intertwines the two to create something incredibly real and this is genuinely helped by the characters and the actors. These feel like believable situations and the fact there is light and dark merging and blending makes this awful situation feel incredibly relatable. You shrink as Kumail interacts with Emily's parents and the scene where Terry (Romano) and Kumail have a heart to heart is hilarious, heartbreaking and unwatchable for anyone who gets bad second-hand embarrassment. Aside from the problems the film has with pacing, The Big Sick is a wonderfully funny and emotional movie that I hope will be placed on the same pedestal alongside When Harry Met Sally.
Outside of the film, StudioCanal have done a pretty great job on the disc which plays well without digital errors on the audio or video tracks. Included are some really great extras including a making-of commentary track, interviews, deleted scenes and a glimpse at the real story behind the Hollywood version of Kumail and Emily's relationship. I really liked the commentary track; you got to hear the passion and connection that the creative leads had to the project which makes re-watching The Big Sick so much better.
To be honest, StudioCanal could have put this film on a disc of lesser quality with less extras and I would have still tried to persuade you to buy it. The film is that good, a personal, heartfelt and heartbreaking story that I could watch over and over again. It is a film that leaves you wanting more and the fact that there are all these interviews and extras provides you with that. This is a must buy and a perfect gift for anyone, including yourself.