Movie Review: “The Big Sick”
The Big Sick
Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is an up-and-coming stand-up comedian. He is struggling to make ends meet, working as an Uber driver while not performing or preparing for one of his shows. At one of his shows he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) and the two immediately hit it off. They have a great time, and she goes home with him. Later that night, she orders an Uber and Kumail ends up being her driver.
The two have an exciting new relationship, but Kumail must find a way to deal with his family (who strongly beieve in arranged marriage). The arranged marriage issue adds tension to the relationship, but it soon does not matter when Emily becomes sick. Doctors do not know how to treat her condition, and she ultimately winds up in a coma. At the hospital, Kumail meets Emily’s parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano). There is no way of knowing if Emily’s condition will improve, but the three go on an emotional journey as they try wait out Emily’s coma together.
The Pros & Cons
Kumail & Emily (+8pts)
Stand-up Friends (-3pts)
Emily’s Parents (+8pts)
The Fight (-4pts)
Arranged Marriage (+6pts)
Attitude Adjustment (-4pts)
Pro: Kumail & Emily (+8pts)
Based heavily on real people, and being the focal point of this story, audiences have to buy into the relationship between these two characters. Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan did a great job of bringing these real characters to the screen. Audiences will definitely be rooting for this relationship and a lot of that is due to the magnificent job by the two actors. We see these two characters meet and we see their relationship grow.
The filmmakers did a fantastic job of beginning this relationship in a way that will have audiences rooting for them to be together. Unfortunately, the filmmakers seemed to struggle, a bit, in trying to bring a few areas of conflict to the screen. I will get into those points later, but the foundation of this relationship was very strong and their story together was very compelling. This was a fascinating true story of how Kumail Nanjiani met Emily (based on a real person), and it was very interesting to see told, but (in order for the movie to work) audiences had to buy the relationship between these two characters. Fortunately, Kumail and Zoe did a great job of portraying this relationship.
Con: Stand-up Friends (-3pts)
In addition to the main characters and their families, the film also introduces Kumail’s stand-up friends. I liked seeing these comedians and they were definitely funny, but I felt they cluttered the movie a bit too much. The film has a fascinating true premise, but it is complex and would work best if audiences are given as much time as possible with the main characters and their relationships with their families. While the characters were funny, I could not help but think they were unnecessary.
The movie already had plenty of comedic characters. The main character is played by one of the funniest comedians today, Kumail Nanjiani, but Kumail’s family was also funny and we even got some comedic moments from Ray Romano. My point is, we did not need more comedic characters. We needed more time with the more essential characters to maximize the impact of the drama and the comedy.
Pro: Emily’s Parents (+8pts)
I really liked this story. One can only imagine how awkward it must be to meet their significant other’s parents for the first time at the waiting area of a hospital (where said significant other is in a coma). They have never met Kumail before, yet he is the one of the first faces they see during this tragic time. It is an insane thing to try to imagine but it is what Kumail has to go through.
Holly Hunter and Ray Romano play Emily’s parents wonderfully. They capture the pain of helpless and desperate parents, and they capture the depression that parents would go through after having to endure such a tragedy. It was fascinating to see how Kumail slowly bonded with these two characters in different ways. I say characters because it was a movie, but these three people bonded over their shared love for Emily. This whole concept had a ton of heart and it was compelling to see it all unfold.
Con: The Fight (-4pts)
Now I know this is a true story and I do not know if this really happened as it played out in the movie, but I felt as though the fight came a little out of nowhere. I had a few issues with this scene. I thought that Emily’s reaction was overly dramatic. She did not listen to Kumail’s fairly reasonable explanation and took the whole fight to an unnecessary level. At the same time, I did not think Kumail had any reason to keep the secret that he did. While I did not think either character was justified in feeing the way that they did, the worst part about this fight was the tone.
This movie worked best during the drama and the comedy. There is some real, heavy drama throughout the story and there is plenty of light-hearted comedy to go along with it. With that in mind, the fight was a tonal shift that I did not think had a place in this story. Whether it really happened or not, we (as an audience) did not need this conflict. The relationship between these characters was already both relatable and compelling. I believe the intent of including this fight was to make the characters seem real and relatable, but audiences did not need that. Audiences would have been rooting for these two already, due to the writing and chemistry between the actors. The fight was unnecessary, seemed unjustified (or random), and disrupted the strong momentum that the story had.
Pro: Arranged Marriage (+6pts)
Going into the movie, I knew the film’s premise. Kumail falls for a girl who gets sick, then he bonds with her parents while hoping for her to recover. What I did not expect was how the movie would address arranged marriage in the modern world. We have Kumail, who’s family believes (strongly) in arranged marriage, and we have Emily, who knows very little about the concept.
Arranged marriage serves a couple purposes for this movie. First, it provides comedy in the form of Kumail’s family pressuring him into marrying girls they set him up with. Kumail’s family gave a lot of funny moments that provided some comedic relief from the heavy drama. Arranged marriage also gave conflict for the main character. Does he choose Emily and face being exiled from his family or does he pick the easier route and marry someone of his family’s choosing? This is a dilemma that a large majority of audiences will be unfamiliar with and not many movies address (in the U.S.). It is certainly unusual in a drama like this, so it provided a relatively unique challenge for the story’s protagonist.
Con: Attitude Adjustment (-4pts)
I am going to struggle to write about this without giving details away, so bare with me. This issue is kind of related to the fight, but it was significantly separated in the story so deserves its own section in this review. A lot of time passes between the fight and the switch in attitude, but the resolution to the fight seemed just as unjustified as the fight itself. This was kind of a bummer because the filmmakers did such a wonderful job of setting up these characters.
Emily’s attitude makes a complete 180 degree flip, but we did not get much character development to support this. The whole thing feels just as random as the fight itself, and (as a result) the story’s conclusion loses momentum. By not giving the character development to support Emily’s attitude adjustment, audiences will not be as invested as they could have been. I would have taken some screentime away from Kumail’s comedy friends and given more to Emily‘s development to make the drama more impactful.
Grade: B+ (86pts)
This movie has a few issues, but I ultimately enjoyed it. Based on a true story, this movie has the very unique premise of new love in which the girl quickly enters a coma and the guy meets her parents (for the first time) in the waiting area of the hospital. It is an interesting premise, but works really well due to the great performances by Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano. Kumail and Zoe had great chemistry that will have audiences rooting for the two. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano give great dramatic performances that capture the pain any parent would experience in this situation.
I really enjoyed this story, but the movie was not perfect. The concept of arranged marriage provides conflict for the main character and provides a lot of comedy as well. Unfortunately, the filmmakers over-did the comedy by squeezing in three of Kumail’s stand-up comedian friends. These characters were severely unnecessary and used up precious screentime that would have been beneficial to resolve the rest of the movie’s issues. Kumail and Emily have a fight that is completely out of left field, then (much later) Emily has an attitude adjustment that seems equally unjustified. Both of these issues needed more screentime and development but, by feeling so random, they disrupt the story’s strong dramatic momentum. Fortunately, these were relatively minor issues. The Big Sick is a lighthearted drama with plenty of comedy and a unique premise.