When it comes to the romantic-comedy genre, the cliches are always there, front and center. You always get the same story: boy and girl meet, fall in love, separate for a while, and reunite because they realize that they are right for each other. This is one of the many reasons why this particular genre has really faltered. Fortunately, this year's The Big Sick, written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, produced by Judd Apatow, and directed by Michael Showalter, throws all of those usual tripes out of the water, while also bringing real heart and soul to a true story of complicated culture clash.
Nanjiani himself stars as a struggling comedian living in Chicago after his family has moved to America from Pakistan. While he also is forced to be an Uber driver to make ends meet, he has to deal with the traditions his family expects him to comply with. This comes in the form of a clever running joke in the film where during each family dinner, his mother constantly arranges single Pakistani women to meet her son. Obviously, this annoys Kumail, who ignores commitments by putting their photographs into his cigar box. While doing stand-up, he gets playfully heckled by a girl named Emily (based on Gordon herself), with whom he has a one-night stand. As their relationship grows, so does the increasing tension of Kumail's family finding out that he is dating a non-Pakistani woman, something that is very forbidden in Pakistani culture. This causes a riff between the two of them, and they break up. Things go from awkward to worse when Emily falls victim to a mysterious virus and has to be put in a medicially-induced coma to save her life. This causes Kumani to re-examinate his life, as he is forced to face her feisty parents and choose between his family tradition or his heart.
Although there is no real twist to how the story is going to play out, the film throws a smart curve ball by surrounding itself with sharply defined and fully realized characters that bring so much emotion and reality in the mix, that really saves the film from becoming a made-for-TV Lifetime movie. It doesn't hurt at all that the cast is simply amazing. In addition to Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan, who match each other so brilliantly as Kumani and Emily, you have Zenobia Shroff and Adeel Akhtar, who are great as Kumani's parents; Adeel Akhtar as Kumani's brother; Kurt Braunohler, Aidy Bryant, and Bo Burnham as Kumani's best friends; and especially Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily's parents. This has to be argubly the best ensemble cast of the year, bar none.
The Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD Combo Pack comes with a few good special features:
- Cast & Filmmaker Commentary with producer Barry Mendel, director Michael Showalter, Nanjiani, and Gordon
- A Personal Journey: The Making of The Big Sick includes interviews with Nanjiani and Apatow, among others
- The Real Story - Nanjiani and Gordon talking about how their real-life relationship inspired the film
- 2017 SXSW Film Festival Panel - a March 2017 panel featuring Mendel, Nanjiani, Gordon, and Apatow
- The Big Sick: The Other Stuff - a brief but fun mix of outtakes and alternate lines
- Deleted Scenes
- The Bigger Sick: Stick Around for More Laughs - traces the film on tour
There are also trailers including those of The Wall, Manchester By the Sea, How to be a Latin Lover, and A Ghost Story, to name a few.
I'm not suprised to see critics and audiences alike acclaiming this film to be the "funniest date movie of the year". It's smart, witty, and very refreshing. If this is the type of romantic comedy Hollywood decides to release, then I'm definitely all for it. We need films like this, especially now more than ever in a time of great chaos and political shock.