SXSW 2017: “The Big Sick”: MOVIE REVIEW

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(Photo via Amazon Studios)

I loved The Big Sick. It’s one of those rare, kind of perfect movies that come along where the story itself isn’t really that complex and it’s a smaller movie. But the characters, the screenwriting, and the performances are so damn good and the story is so compelling and emotional that’s its hard to look away at it. Michael Showalter, who won the audience award here at SXSW a few years back for Hello, My Name is Doris, directs this fictionalized story of how Kumail Nanjiani met his wife Emily V. Gordon. It’s not only the best film of SXSW, but the best film of 2017.

Kumail plays himself in the movie as a struggling comedian in Chicago who has a one night stand with Emily (Zoe Kazan), a grad student working to become a therapist in Chicago. After the one-night stand, their relationship continues to grow more and more but everything comes to a screeching halt when Emily is diagnosed with a rare illness, and Kumail is forced to help her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) through this ordeal.

Kumail and Emily co-wrote the screenplay together, with the two having written for television in the past and this being their first feature. This is also Kumail’s first lead role in a film, with the actor having previously been the supporting character in numerous films/comedies. From beginning to the end, this movie is an absolute triumph. The chemistry between Zoe and Kumail in the film undeniable, as the two young actors are in their prime with this movie. Even though we know the outcome of the movie when it’s over, there’s still this hope as an audience member that it’ll all get better in the end for these two. While Zoe Kazan’s time in the film is limited, Kumail carries the film at times on his shoulders, and he’s terrific in the film. He’s charismatic, charming, funny, and at times very powerful and relatable in this role.

Kumail must also balance having to deal with the love of his life in the hospital and life with his family, who like Kumail immigrated to Pakistan and expects Kumail to follow the Muslim life just like they have (praying everyday, arranged marriages, etc.). The actors who play Kumail’s family are really funny/terrific, with Anupam Kher playing his father and Adeel Akhtar playing his brother in the film. The sequences of Kumail with his family are hilarious because Kumail knows what he wants to do with his life but his family expects him to do what they feel would be a better life for him (a doctor or a lawyer), and Kumail just wants to follow his dream of performing stand-up and being with the woman that he loves, even if that’s not what his family wants for him. 

Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are hilarious as Emily’s parents in the film. Hunter is perfect as the tough and opinionated mother while Romano is the one who constantly gets bossed around by his wife (similar to Romano’s performance on Everybody Loves Raymond). This is Hunter’s best screen performance in years, and maybe Romano’s best film performance ever. The two are hesitant of Kumail at first since he’s this mysterious man who their daughter knew but their relationship continues to grow and grow. It’s one of my favorite parts of this beautiful little movie.

As I said earlier, I loved The Big Sick. This was a phenomenal little movie that judging by the response from the crowd after the screening will do very well when it’s released later this summer. I’m also hoping that many of the big awards organizations will remember this film later on in the year, for Kumail’s performance, some of the supporting performances, and the hilarious screenplay by Kumail and Emily. Judd Apatow and Barry Mendel produced this film, and they were the duo behind another surprise Oscar contender, Bridesmaids, so I’m hoping this film has similar success in that realm that Bridesmaids did (because this film is even better than that one). This is the best film of 2017, and I’ll make sure to not forget this one later on in the year.

Final Rating: 

A+

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