Title: The Big Sick
Rating: 4 Stars
Yes, this is that rarely executed romantic comedy where one of the two in love spends the large majority of the movie in a coma.
Based on a real story, the struggling Pakistani comedian, Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani), has a typical meets-cute Emily (Zoe Kazan) when she heckles him during his act. They’re both reluctant to fall in love, but as is typical with romantic comedies, they inevitably do. As such things go in romantic comedies, hurdles crop up in their pursuit of true love. In Kumail’s case, he comes from a traditional Pakistani family that not only refuses to accept a non Pakistani girlfriend but is trying to force an arranged marriage.
Therefore, Kumail never introduces Emily to his family. Ultimately, she finds out the truth and angrily breaks up with him. Shortly thereafter, she gets very sick, and since all of her friends are deep into finals, Kumail is drafted to check up on her when she goes to the emergency room. At once, she becomes so sick that she lapses into a coma.
Kumail notifies her parents, and the three of them, after an awkward start, sit in vigil for Emily waiting for her to wake up. When she wakes up, will she take Kumail back? Will Kumail ever come clean to his parents about his true love?
If this is your first rom-com, then the answer might not be obvious. Otherwise, I’m guessing that you know where this movie is going to end up.
So yes, it is a very traditional romantic comedy. Even so, it is a well executed one.
What lifts it even higher is the subject matter behind it. Here you have the struggles of an Americanized Pakistani man.
His family is very traditional and clearly has sacrificed much for him, for which he feels much obligation. However, clearly being immersed in American culture, it is difficult for him to reconcile himself to the traditional ways. He only pretends to pray. He dates white women. Given the overwhelming influence of American culture, I’d imagine that this is a common experience to children of immigrants that were raised immersed in this culture.
In these times where the followers of Islam are actively demonized, it’s refreshing to see a normalized portrait of what I’d imagine is a much more typical example of a Muslim family. Struggling to adjust to such a radically different culture must be a struggle, and I enjoyed seeing this struggle displayed on the screen.
Watching Kumail’s relationship slowly bloom with Emily’s parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano), was also well done. Initially suspicious of him, as they get to know him and understand the true depth of his feelings for Emily, their feelings begin to thaw. They also themselves have conflicts that they need to work out between them.
All, in all, it was a refreshing, funny, and ultimately heart warming movie showing a slice of America not often shown.
Not only that, it had the best 9/11 joke that I’ve ever heard (even though it’s over 15 years later, not a tremendously popular category, I must admit).