The Big Sick
What a great movie. Sincere, honest, touching but yet never schmaltzy and oh so funny. The fact that it was based on the true story/romance between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon (played here by Zoe Kazan) just made it all the more emotional and effective. Even knowing how it played out in real life did hardly impact the emotional investment of the audience, and that is the power of great storytelling by director Michael Showalter, co-writers Nanjiani and Gordon, and uber-producers Judd Apatow and Barry Mandel.
The biggest drawback to the film was the run time. Clocking in at 124 minutes, the film could have been even tighter if they had perhaps tighten it by 10 to 15 minutes. However, having said that, it must be said that the film itself was already very well paced with very, very few scenes that did not work, but then again some side plots could have been kept on the editing floor.
From drawback to strength, the five biggest strengths of The Big Sick was (one) the great chemistry between Nanjiani and Kazan; (two) Nanjiani's great comedic timing (so reminiscent of his character on Silicon Valley); (three) the script - honest and funny; (four) the inclusion of Nanjiani's Pakistani family and its traditional values; and (five) Holly Hunter.
Nanjiani and Gordon's love story must have been such a personal one for them both to tell, and Kazan managed to step into Gordon's shoes and helped to relay that connection to the audience. Although she played more the straight woman to Nanjiani's deadpanned, comedic talent, she still managed to score some good laughs. And for Nanjiani to try to emulate those complicated feelings he had for Gordon onto Kazan is surely no mean feat. Although it does help that most of the key emotional sequences were not opposite Gordon.
The inclusion of Nanjiani's Pakistani family was a brave choice and it mostly worked, although at times it did felt like watching two separate films. But it was only by telling that story then could most American audience appreciate the complexity of Nanjiani and Gordon's relationship. It also further added dimensions to Nanjiani's character and of course the inevitable conflict.
Hunter was the breakout star of the film if we could use that term on such an accomplished actress (where has she been all these years besides a brief stint on Jane Campion's fantastic The Girl on the Lake?). Hunter did all the heavy emotional lifting on her little shoulders. She was fantastic to watch, stealing every scene she was in. One particular silent moment near the end sealed her status as an enormously talented and underappreciated actress. She gave a look. A look filled with so much damn meaning.
Ray Romano co-starred as Gordon/Kazan's father, and although not exactly playing against type, Ramano still managed to bring some emotional heft into his i'm-funny-but-it's-not-intentional, bumbling-dad role.
Nanjiani's Pakistani family also brought the laughs, but as aforesaid, some of their scenes, as funny as they were, did stretched out too long.
The Big Sick was a great romantic comedy, so unlike your typical rom-coms, that deserved to be watched. Coming out in Summer surely will help it to draw in audience and the monies, but Hunter and the script should deserve some awards-chatter and love too.