THE BIG SICK – Takes Rom-Com to New Hilarity — 4 Stars


How’s this for great comic theater and a creative preview of an upcoming movie:  comics Kumail Nanjiani, Ray Romano, Aidy Bryant, and Kurt Braunohler started a “Big Sick” comedic tour two months prior to the nation-wide release of the romantic comedy movie of the same title.  All four comics appeared in the tour as well as in the movie.  Being in the backwater country of the Lowcountry, I had no idea that this fabulous tour was going on.  But if you keep your seats when you see this film in local movie theaters and wait until after the credits appear on screen, you will get glimpses of the real live tour.

So what is all the hoopla about?  “The Big Sick” is a hilarious, touching and, apparently, true portrayal of the unlikely love story between comedian Kumail Nanjiani (Nanjiani) and “white girl” Emily Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan) beginning with their early courtship.  When the two meet at a Chicago comedy club, Nanjiani is working as a stand-up comic and sometimes Uber driver (or perhaps the other way around), and Emily is working on her graduate degree in psychology.  Because each is too set on his/her career goals to commit to the responsibilities of a relationship, they ostensibly engage in a one night stand only.  As fate would have it, they manage to continue seeing each other in spite of the demands of their chosen careers, and the romance turns serious.

Nanjiani plays himself in the movie and surrounds himself with a fabulous comedic cast with Holly Hunter as Emily’s mother Beth and Ray Romano as Emily’s dad Terry.  Also playing characters like themselves are real life comics Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, Kurt Braunohler.

Kumail’s conservative Pakistani parents (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Schroff) are set upon a traditional arranged Muslim marriage for their younger son.  The parade of women Kumail’s mother contrives to “drop by” during dinner is positively mind-boggling.  In fact, Kumail is afraid to disappoint his parents and risk being disinherited (“dead to his family”) so he is unwilling to tell his parents about his courtship of Emily.  Kumail and Emily have an on again/off again relationship when Emily suddenly falls ill and is placed in a medically induced coma so doctors can assess the extent of her mysterious illness.

At this point, Kumail is forced to call Emily’s parents (Hunter and Romano) who come to stand watch over their comatose daughter.  Emily has held no secrets from her parents who are aware that Kumail and Emily have broken up because Kumail is unwilling to disappoint his parents.  While Kumail is not initially welcomed by the Gordons, he insists on keeping vigil with or without the family at the hospital.

Interspersed among hospital visits and Nanjiani family dinners are appearances at the Comedy Club and crazy interactions between Kumail and his fellow comics.  The dialogue is witty and droll.  Scenes between the Gordons and Kumail are full of a free-wheeling humor that defies description.

The experience will have you laughing out loud and applauding the miracle of this developing and evolving love story.  In my view, Holly Hunter gives as Oscar-worthy performance as the Hippie-type mom who is a defender of all right thinking people.  Watching her engage a bigot at a comedy club performance and bingeing on junk food and guzzling wine from the bottle will send you into hysterics.  This is a film for my personal DVD library.


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