Movie Review: The Big Sick

By | September 1, 2017

Title be damned, this romantic comedy (starring Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani as a man who breaks up with a girlfriend he loves only to discover his mistake when she lapses into a coma) is one of the best films of 2017.

What Works: The rom-com is an endangered species (there are now more films mocking them than there are actual romantic comedies), and this consistently surprising hit just might save it. Just when you think you know where it’s going, it keeps going down paths you’ve never quite seen before, exposing wide-ranging truths about the confines of Pakistani families (Kumail risks being kicked out of his family if he doesn’t marry a Pakistani-Muslim girl), the stand-up comedy scene in Chicago, trying to win over a girl’s parents (even while this girl is in a coma), and the terribleness of encyclopedic, impersonal one-man shows.

It’s no surprise comedy-mega-producer Judd Apatow is involved here, but (to me) “The Big Sick” is the most personal film yet in the Apatow-universe, no surprise since it’s autobiographical in nature, but I still feel you’re getting a much more direct sense of who Nanjiani is as a comedian and person than, say, “Trainwreck” or “Bridesmaids” or “Knocked Up.” I hope Nanjiani is nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards, but he’s certainly a shoo-in for a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy, and Holly Hunter probably will be for Best Supporting Actress as well. And don’t ignore the fine work Ray Romano is doing here, on a hot streak of critically beloved, exceptional work in “Parenthood,” “Men of a Certain Age,” and now this.

What Doesn’t: This is the shallowest of concerns, but this title sucks. I know “The Big Sick” is a hit anyway, but just imagine how much more so it would be with a different title. I cannot count the times I’ve mentioned this movie, and people have said “What’s that about?” even if they actually already know, but I have to recap the plot before a weary awareness sets in.

What I Would Have Done Differently: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a romantic-comedy where the boy is really falling in love with his girlfriend’s parents, and most of the movie is really about them. It’s a compliment to this film’s originality, humor, and road-less-traveled-inventiveness.

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