The Big Sick, 2017.
Directed by Michael Showalter.
Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Adeel Akhtar, and Anupam Kher.
The Big Sick, based on the true story of how Kumail Nanjiani and his wife came together, which involved a coma and a major culture clash, is out now on Blu-ray after a critically-acclaimed theatrical run earlier this year. You get the movie on Blu-ray and DVD discs, along with a code for a digital copy and a good collection of bonus features.
I’ve been a fan of Kumail Nanjiani after seeing him in bit parts on the TV series Portlandia and on HBO’s Silicon Valley. I’m a sucker for comedians with droll deliveries in the Bob Newhart vein, and Nanjiani fits that mold.
Earlier this year, I listened to an interview with him and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast and became intrigued with seeing The Big Sick, which is based on the tumultuous early part of their relationship. My wife, another avid WTF listener, was interested in the movie too, so, since we missed it in theaters, I figured I’d check out this Blu-ray release.
Nanjiani plays himself as he was over a decade ago. He’s a struggling comedian who has drifted away from the Muslim religion and is not in the least interested in an arranged marriage, much to the chagrin of his Pakistani parents. One night, Emily Gardner (played by Zoe Kazan) is in the audience and tosses out what could be considered a mild heckle. It throws him off, though, and he confronts her about it after the show. Soon the pair strike up a relationship.
Kumail begins living a double life, however, playing along with the routine around family dinners featuring his mother’s “surprise” visitors, who are women she hopes he will be interested in marrying. He neglects to tell his parents about Emily and keeps her in the dark about what’s happening during those family dinners.
After Emily discovers photos of the women in his bedroom, the pair breaks up, but she falls grievously ill and ends up in the hospital. Kumail visits her and is pressed by a doctor into signing a form that will put her into a medically-induced coma. Emily’s parents, played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, soon arrive on the scene and tell Kumail he can go on his way, since they know about the pair’s break-up, but he decides to keep his own vigil at the hospital. Kumail must figure out how to win them over while also dealing with his parents’ continued pressure on him.
Romantic comedies can be formulaic, and The Big Sick is not that much different from its predecessors in that regard, but it breaks the mold a bit by putting its female lead in a coma for much of the story. With Emily in a life-or-death situation, Kumail must decide if he’s staying by her side because he feels bad for her or because he truly does love her. The film doesn’t actually bring that part of the story to a full resolution, instead shifting the focus to his relationships with two very different sets of parents.
Hunter shines as Emily’s mother, conveying the wide range of emotions you’d expect from a mom in such a situation. She’s clearly a mama bear when it comes to her child, and soon she begins to view Kumail the same way, even defending him during one of his shows when a heckler tells him to “go back to ISIS.” Romano does what he does best, playing a timid dad trying to navigate a series of difficult situations.
Kumail’s parents tend to be a bit more stereotypical. Their scenes mostly revolve around their devotion to their culture and religion, so they’re mostly rote, although the heartbreak is palpable when they discover their son’s deception. Kumail’s final scene with his father is painful; sometimes not every relationship has a happy ending.
Three real life comedians – Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, and Kurt Braunohler – play aspiring comedians who share Kumail’s trials and tribulations, but for a movie heavy on comedians, there aren’t as many laughs as I expected. There are plenty of chuckles and smiles, though, so perhaps that’s enough for this rom-com.
Judd Apatow produced The Big Sick, and like many movies he’s been involved with, the story feels a bit flabby. It probably could have lost a little off its 120-minute running time without feeling like anything was missing.
This home video release from Lionsgate contains the movie on Blu-ray and DVD platters, along with a code for a digital copy. The bonus features include:
- A commentary track: Producer Barry Mendel discusses the film with Nanjiani, Gordon, and director Michael Showalter. It’s one of those group commentaries in which the participants watch the movie without anything pre-planned and say whatever comes to mind. That’s not my favorite approach, but there are some interesting anecdotes and bits of trivia that come out of the discussion.
- A Personal Journey: The Making of The Big Sick (15 minutes): A cursory overview of how the movie came together, which started with Nanjiani pitching Apatow and Mendel on the story.
- The Real Story (7 minutes): An even-more-cursory discussion of Nanjiani and Gordon’s real life relationship, which was mostly accurately portrayed in the film, except a few dramatic flourishes.
- 2017 SXSW Film Festival Panel (11 minutes): An onstage interview with Mendel, Apatow, Gordon, and Nanjiani after a showing of the film at SXSW.
- The Big Sick: The Other Stuff (4 minutes): A series of jokes cut from the film. Some of them are pretty good.
- Deleted scenes (10 minutes): The Big Sick would have been even flabbier if this footage had been left in.
- The Bigger Sick: Stick Around for More Laughs (10 minutes): A look back at a comedy tour featuring Nanjiani, Romano, Gordon, Apatow, Bryant, and Braunohler. Doing a comedy tour to help promote the movie was a smart marketing move.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★