The Big Sick (2017) | Sundance London Festival 2017

July 20th, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir. Michael Showalter | Cast: Holly Hunter, Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan | US, 2016, 119 mins

A thoughtful and daringly witty script with some surprising twists and turns make this cross-cultural romantic drama, based on the true life of Pakistani Muslim comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his onscreen American girlfriend, a real pleasure. Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon co-wrote the script that successful sends up terrorism, religion and racism. The film is given a gutsy kick up the pants by Holly Hunter, superb as Emily’s mother, sparring with onscreen husband Ray Romano.

There’s a lot going on here aside from Emily’s parents’ spicy show and Kumail’s Pakistani family backstory that plays out very much like At Home with the Kumars. The film opens as Kumail is working Chicago’s comedy standup circuit with a group of convincing and funny collaborators. Naive but well-meaning, and very much a metrosexual man, Kumail drives Uber taxis in the daytime and endures regular dinners with ‘suitable’ girls who “just stop by” the family home, courtesy of his overbearing mother. MA student Emily (Kazan) enters the picture, blond and very American, and neither wants a relationship, despite hot sex on their first date. They continue to see each other, enjoying the chemistry and growing closer each day until Emily calls time on their affair realising that Kumail must marry a Muslim woman. Clearly this is not the end – despite verbal assurances to the contrary – but Emily’s sudden illness and hospitalisation forces Kumail to reconsider his future and his life. Enter Emily’s frank and forceful parents (Hunter and Romano) who at first reject him and then recognise his dedication to their rather spoilt daughter. Kumail feels warm and comfortable in this close and protective family, not dissimilar to his own.

Despite its indie credentials this is a slick and polished affair, believable and utterly engaging from start to finish with its rich vein of humour, strong performances and timely storyline. In short, it’s a winner. MT


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