For moviegoers today, romantic comedies have all but gone the way of the unicorn. If and when they appear, they’re often too little, too late or not strictly a romantic comedy at all. Part of what makes The Big Sick stand out in this summer of regurgitated action clunkers and reboots of reboots of reboots is its simple sincerity in telling a love story in a humorous way.
It’s also cleverly and honestly written, acted with heart, and genuinely funny. The Big Sick is good, very good—this summer’s cinematic unicorn.
The Big Sick: Love, and Laughs
The Big Sick tells the real-life story of how Silicon Valley star Kumail Nanjiani met his wife, Emily. Kumail (his character’s name as well) is an up-and-coming stand-up comic and Uber driver in Chicago. He meets Emily (played by Zoe Kazan) one night after a gig at a comedy club. The two begin dating but hit a roadblock when Kumail struggles with the notion of introducing Emily to his American-Pakistani family, who want him to continue the tradition of an arranged marriage. When Emily falls ill and ends up in a medically induced coma, Kumail is confronted with not only his true feelings for Emily but also her parents from out of town (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano).
With just those plot details, The Big Sick could easily veer more into the drama category, but one of the best aspects of the film is its lightness and honest humor in the face of serious health perils and disapproving family members. You root for Kumail from the start, so charming a presence Nanjiani is, and Kazan brings to her role a sincerity that keeps you rooting for her as well, even as she spends a great deal of the film in a coma. Hunter and Romano are perfect fits as Emily’s parents, dealing with a crossroads in their own lives while handling and often hilariously failing at coping with the panic of their daughter’s situation. Hunter’s trademark feistiness delivers a jolt of energy, and it’s great to see Romano deftly tackle such a layered role.
The Big Sick is a love story between two people, but it’s so much more. It’s a reflection on modern interracial dating and what it’s like to live a life different from what others have envisioned for you. It’s also funny the whole way through. In short, a pretty awesome unicorn.