This Judd Apatow produced, Michael Showalter directed summer sleeper hit tells the true love story of its star Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon (both pen the script), Kumail plays himself, a prospective Chicago stand-up comedian of Pakistani descent, who also moonlights as an Uber driver, he begins to date a white girl Emily (Kazan) who happens to be in the audience of his one-man show, both take a casual stance on their fledgling romance and unavoidably hit some hitches induced by their racial discrepancy and familial barriers (chiefly from Kumail’s), but when Emily is struck by a precipitous virus attack and put into coma, Kumail begins to have a new perspective on his life and his feelings for her.
Starting as a meet-cute one-night-stand, the film oozes a genial sincerity and affinity which would become its foremost allure, these are two nice persons taking their tentative steps to build a relationship, physical-bonding, wise-cracking and just enjoying each other’s company (not without a candid but awkward number two incident), but unbeknown to Emily, Kumail also goes through the motions with his parents’ relentless family dinners where an arranged marriage with a Muslim girl is always the central theme, and sundry candidates just drop by accidentally, which will become a slightly irritating running joke, as Emily blurts when she finds out all the pictures of those nubile Pakistani girls Kumail collects, “are you the judge of a Pakistani beauty pageant?”, surely, Kumail is from a decent family, but lading out a gazillion of nuptial prospects, and then leaving them out in the cold as if they are second-rate commodities to which Kumail doesn’t even deign to vouchsafe a mere chance of a first-date, this gesture smacks of patronizing a male’s egoism, meantime, the reason why Kumail is so intransigently against arranged marriage is never satisfyingly elucidated, especially seeing that both his parents and bother’s marriages are quite successful examples.
Fairly speaking, the rub here is both ethical and ethnic, how to conduct filial piety (which also entails its ethnic traditions and values) without waiving one’s own identity when there is an irreconcilable rift between them? It is a thorny knot should be tendered tactfully and THE BIG SICK gives it a kid-gloves treatment, after being plunged into a life-and-death situation, Kumail decides to make that giant step and leaves their futurity in the hands of Emily, who also needs her own time to put herself together and think things over.
Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan both are unassumingly personable in the leading roles, although the latter spends a fair chunk of screen-time in an insensate state, but when she returns, you can always count on her down-to-earth but also intuitive and unalloyed presence, as for the former, Nanjiani sustains a fetching balance between his comedic forte and dramatic poise in a role that teeters a bit too close to home for him. Magnanimously the film purveys a grand platform for two veterans who plays Emily’s liberal-minded parents, Holly Hunter is a tiny woman, but when she goes belligerent, it would take several heavies to stop her from physically assaulting a heckling racist, yet she can also warm the cockles of our hearts in the most earnest way in the next scene; comedian Ray Romano also actualizes a worthwhile performance, emanates a self-effacing, affectionate and candid persona, only his specious “cheating your wife” conclusion sounds more like an futile attempt to make a virtue of a man’s immanent Freudian propensity.
At any rate, THE BIG SICK is a feel-good rom-com seen through a rose-colored eyeglasses with a positive message pregnant with a pungent self-awareness of its racial/political correctness, it is not difficult to fathom why it has charmed a large demography of angst-ridden audience who are parched to taste something so uncritically appealing and life-affirming.
referential points: Showalter’s HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS (2015, 7.3/10); Judd Apatow’s TRAINWRECK (2015, 5.5/10).