Stand-up comedians have it tough. Especially when the stand-up comedian is from Pakistan and has parents who are determined that he remain faithful to his heritage above all else. This comedy-drama’s most poignant moment occurs when Kumail Nanjiani (playing himself) finally confesses everything to his parents and asks them why they bothered to come to America if they want everything to be the same as it was in Pakistan. That moment, as well as others that make us question fundamental things about life, is why The Big Sick (a terrible title, though it does refer to both love as an illness and the lead female’s actual illness) is getting such positive reviews.
Michael Showalter’s film is set in Chicago (and later, New York City), where Kumail is trying to make it in stand-up. He meets a nice white girl, Emily (Zoe Kazan), and they hit it off, but Kumail knows his parents will never accept her. Eventually Emily learns this truth, too, and they break up — but then she becomes very ill and Kumail becomes really involved in her family life, meeting her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) and finally coming to grips with how he really feels about her. Then she wakes up from her medically-induced coma and things really get honest.
The film’s comedy is good, though not great — in particular, I was hoping the stand-up routines would be funnier than they are. But the film really scores as a drama, whether its Emily’s parents tagging along to see him perform and getting into a fight with a heckler, or Kumail finally facing his family with all the lies he has been telling them about himself. The story is fresh and vibrant and real, and funny enough to leaven its rather harsh truths. And it is fascinating to see American life from a little different perspective. It’s not a great film but it certainly is a good one; catch it if you can. ☆ ☆ ☆. 5 August 2017.