Review: The Big Sick

This review may contain SPOILERS

A Pakistani comedian learns to deal with cultural differences as he bonds with his sick girlfriend’s family in The Big Sick. Aspiring comedian Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) has an awkward relationship with his Pakistani parents Azmat and Sharmeen (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff), who are always introducing Kumail to possible arranged spouses. Meanwhile, Kumail meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) after one his shows and they quickly fall for each other. However, when Emily finds out that Kumail is afraid their interracial relationship will shame his family, she decides to leave him. Soon afterwards, Kumail receives a call saying that Emily is sick in the hospital with a mysterious infection. As the doctors try to figure out what’s wrong, Kumail meets and gets to know Emily’s parents Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano).

The Big Sick is an autobiographical romantic dramedy, which tells the story of co-writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s relationship. Best known for his role on the HBO series Silicon Valley, Kumail Nanjiani plays a fictionalized version of himself in a story that deals heavily with cultural differences and personal identity.

It can be very easy to get a My Big Fat Greek Wedding vibe off of The Big Sick, particularly when it involves the scenes of Kumail interacting with his Pakistani family. Kumail does not want to participate in an arranged marriage, even though his parents conveniently have a new girl over every time he visits. When Kumail meets and begins dating Emily, it seems that he could have found someone that he could be with. However, he keeps the relationship a secret out of fear of shaming his family, which eventually ends up driving her away. It is only after the break-up that Kumail begins to learn how important Emily was to his life, especially as she is hospitalized with an unknown infection.

While The Big Sick is marketed as a romantic comedy, I can’t really describe the film as such. While there is a fair share of comedy in the film, there is also just as much, if not more heavy drama. In fact, the tone of the film is not unlike the films directed by, The Big Sick‘s producer, Judd Apatow. I can almost argue that the film is telling three stories at the same time. First there is the story of Kumail’s awkward relationship with his family, which is contrasted with the story of Kumail getting to know Emily’s parents as she is sick in the hospital. Then there is a third plot line involve Kumail’s stand-up career and his aspirations to get chosen for the Montreal Comedy Festival.

In many ways, I am happy that The Big Sick didn’t turn into another Big Fat Greek Wedding, since the humour involving Kumail’s Pakistani heritage was not something I was really able to grasp to. In fact, I have to admit that while I did chuckle in parts, I did not really find The Big Sick to be as funny a film as people are saying it is. Perhaps, I didn’t feel it was appropriate to constantly laugh at a film, in which one of the lead characters spends most of the time sick in the hospital. Speaking of which, while the fact that Zoe Kazan’s Emily ends up hospitalized can be considered a bit of a spoiler, it is quite impossible for me to talk about The Big Sick without mentioning it, since it happens in the second act of the film. It is a shame that this means Kazan is on the backburner for much of the film, since I am fan of her from her performance in The F-Word.

While I do believe that The Big Sick has been a bit over-hyped, I still think that the film is a better than average romantic comedy, which deals with cultural identity and not knowing you have a good thing until it’s gone.

8 / 10 stars

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).