up to this point
music friday: 1967

the big sick (michael showalter, 2017)

The Big Sick focuses on the budding love affair between a stand-up comic and a graduate student. The comic is played by Kumail Nanjiani, who among other things is a stand-up comic in real life. A successful comic, I should add. Because the character he plays in The Big Sick is based on his own life, and some of Nanjiani's bits make their way into the movie. The problem is, they aren't very funny. This works to place Kumail (the character's name as well) in the milieu of aspiring comics, but it seems we're supposed to think he is funnier than his counterparts, and it doesn't ring true. (I'm reminded of Obvious Child, which also suffered because the comedian at the center wasn't particularly funny. Jenny Slate is so good that she makes this mostly unimportant, but it is still a problem.)

This is pretty much the only thing that doesn't ring true, though, because The Big Sick is a rom-com that often transcends its genre. Nanjiani is fine, and Zoe Kazan as his is-she/isn't-she girlfriend Emily steals the movie whenever she's on the screen. That is another problem, though, because Emily is the character who personifies the film's title, and she spends a good portion of the movie in a coma. Her energy is missed, although it does provide a useful reminder of the hole in Kumail's life when Emily is not there.

The Big Sick is like a couple of other movies I've watched recently (Real Women Have Curves and Lady Bird) in that much of what we see is in line with its genre. What separates these movies from the norm is that they are about different people and cultures than we usually see. Those other movies insert women into standard coming-of-age stories (with a Xicana character at the center of Real Women), which changes the context enough to create something new. In The Big Sick, the change comes from Kumail being Pakistani. Much of his stand-up works off of his heritage, and the film features many scenes with his family that are heartfelt. But there isn't much different here, really, just another tale of parents not understanding their kids' romantic adventures. Also, while the actors playing his parents (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) are good, they are also clearly actors. Compare them to the Indian parents on Master of None, who are played by Aziz Ansari's real, non-actor, parents. They are clearly not actors, and Ansari makes this work.

But I'm complaining too much. Nanjiani and Kazan have wonderful chemistry, and Holly Hunter and Ray Romano deliver as Emily's parents. There are plenty of funny parts, and the film has heart without cheaply trying for the audience's tears, which is difficult when one of the sweethearts is in a coma. 7/10.