September 9, 2017
The Big Sick
They say "the personal is universal" and this movie proves it. Kumail Nanjiani and his IRL wife Emily Gordon based this movie on their real life, and the specificity gives it an authentic, organic honesty. It seems impossible that Nanjiani could become close to his ex-girlfriend's parents, but they grow together in a completely believable way. During the third act, there's some clunky plot machinations in order to wrap up the story, but maybe they just feel clunky because the first two-thirds of the movie feel so natural?
I am not a particular fan of Kumail Nanjiani: his cranky sense of humor, where he picks apart every statement like he's president of the Pedantry Club is not my speed. However, this movie is about a guy falling victim to his character flaws, and learning to grow beyond them. Nanjiani is terrific in the scene where he finally confronts his parents with his true feelings.
Pairing up Holly Hunter and Ray Romano is a left-field masterstroke - the shortest and tallest actors in Hollywood, Oscar-winning actress and sitcom standup, the alpha dog and beta dog, sharp angles and shaggy dad. It's brilliant to show the parallels between Emily's dad's personality and Nanjiani's personality. Most movies don't bother drawing those characters so carefully.
Speaking of other movies, The Big Sick also handles the 'arranged marriage' plotline with care. Nanjiani's mother attempts to set up her son with Pakistani women over and over again, but these women are not used as punchlines. In other movies, getting set up by your mom is only a joke- the guy blanches at the prospect of the unattractive or weird woman he's paired with. In The Big Sick, they're all beautiful and normal. It's Nanjiani who's the weird one for not coming clean to his parents while allowing his mother to string these ladies along.
A highly recommended little treasure of a movie.
Belmont Studio Cinema