What's it rated? R
What's it worth? Full Price
Where's it showing? The Palm, Stadium 10
Director Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris) directs this semi-autographical screenplay by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani about a Pakistani stand-up comic named Kumail (Nanjiani) who falls for a white woman who heckles him during a performance named Emily (Zoe Kazan). Their budding relationship is strained when Emily discovers Kumail has a stash of photos of Pakistani women his parents have been trying to set him up with in an arranged marriage, so she breaks things off. Later, she's taken to the hospital and put into an induced coma due to an infection, and Kumail realizes he made a mistake letting her go, but now it may be too late.
Ah love! It's never easy as this big-hearted charmer proves. But this is more than a based-on-real-life love story; it's also an insightful treatise on what it means to be Muslim—or even perceived as Muslim—in America, as well as an examination of the Pakistani culture.
Kumail was born in Pakistan, but he's embraced American life wholeheartedly, much to the disappointment of his traditional parents, who believe arranged marriage to a Pakistani woman is imperative to both Kumail's happiness and their family's honor. Of course, Kumail doesn't see it that way. He doesn't practice Islam or even know if he believes in Allah at all. He swears, drinks, and sleeps around—all of which he hides from his parents.
To make a living, he's an Uber driver, but his passion is stand-up, and he's good! The film also looks at the behind-the-scenes world of stand-up comedy, and if you've seen the new Showtime series I'm Dying Up Here about the comedy scene in '70s L.A., you'll have an idea about what goes on.
Deftly balancing comedy and drama, The Big Sick threads a direct path between tears and laughter. It gave me the biggest laugh I've had in a film in a long time, and I was stifling back sobs at the moving story. I loved it!
Of all the solid performances, Holly Hunter's stands out. In fact, she's so amazingly good that she reminds you that Nanjiani and Ray Romano, as Emily's dad Terry, are acting. There's something very natural about her portrayal, and her character arc—how she warms to Kumail—giving the film more depth than it would have otherwise.
Even though Romano isn't a great actor, he's well cast here, with his hangdog expression and deadpan delivery. Terry and Beth have marriage troubles of their own, but one of the things the story drives home is that love is a choice and that families depend on one another. Beth and Terry grow closer through Emily's illness.
I don't know how accurate the story is, but in the closing credits, we get to see photos of Nanjiani's real-life parents. It was a reminder of how lucky it is to have a close, supportive family. A couple of weeks ago, I saw and reviewed Maudie, another great love story. The beauty of film is there are so many ways to portray love, which is both the simplest and most complex thing humans express. When the screening ended at The Palm, the audience burst into applause, and this film is worthy. What a crowd pleaser! (120 min.)