The Big Sick (U.S. – rated R)
Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano
Genre: Romantic comedy-drama
Dwight’s rating: Very, Very Good
If you watched the Golden Globe Awards this past Sunday, and if you don’t watch movies much when you travel abroad (and you don’t stream them on shady websites or partake in the bootleg DVD trade), perhaps you, too, felt like the one person in the room who didn’t get an inside joke.
Most of the nominated and ultimately winning movies have yet to play in this country, especially the big winners with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association this year: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, “Lady Bird” and “The Shape of Water”.
Those three are on almost every critic’s top 10 lists for 2017. We can only keep our fingers crossed that soon (and before the Oscars in March this year, because of next month’s Winter Olympics) we’ll get to see for ourselves whether they are as good as everyone seems to think.
It’s, unfortunately, a common story here: the most respected and most buzzed-about movies either play in limited release at a special screening or film festival, or for only a week, or just don’t come at all.
A quick look at the American Film Institute’s top 10 movies (which includes those three aforementioned Golden Globe winners), reveals that only three of their picks have made appearances in local theaters — the World War II drama “Dunkirk”, comedy-horror “Get Out” and superhero action flick “Wonder Woman”.
One movie on that list, “The Big Sick”, opened in the United States way back in June (!), has been included on many other top 10 and top 20 lists. In fact, it’s up for a number of awards, including the Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Now, June was a busy month at the cinema, and local audiences were getting their fill of some good stuff, like “Wonder Woman” and “Baby Driver”; some ‘watchable’ stuff like “Despicable Me 3” and “All Eyez on Me”; and some downright pathetic garbage like “The House”, “The Mummy” and “Transformers: The Last Knight”.
But in missing out on “The Big Sick”, we missed out on what was definitely one of the very best movies of all of 2017!
This biographical romantic comedy/drama is based on the real life love story of actor/comedian Kumail Nanjiama (from HBO’s “Silicon Valley”) and his wife, Emily V. Gordon. The couple wrote the screenplay.
We follow Kumail (played by Nanjiama himself), a Pakistani comic who meets an American graduate student named Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his stand-up shows. As their relationship blossoms, he soon becomes worried about what his traditional Muslim parents will think of her. When Emily suddenly comes down with an illness that leaves her in a coma, Kumail finds himself developing a bond with her deeply concerned mother and father.
Unlike a lot of the nonsensical shenanigans that so-often inhabit the romantic comedy genre, “The Big Sick” has an incredibly authentic feel to it. Right from the start, you get the sense you’re watching two very real people and their very relatable relationship playing out right in front of your eyes. And as if the challenges of romantic relationships weren’t enough, race and religion are added to the mix. It’s very clear this ain’t no Katherine Heigl rom-com.
The “drama” comes early, but never gets too heavy. Whether you look at it as “the funniest drama of the year” or as “one of the year’s most mature comedies”, it is undoubtedly firing on all cylinders. The film is like a tennis match, moving back and forth with laugh-out-loud moments and touching sentimentality, almost in the same breath.
A great script with snappy dialogue is blessedly paired with a truly fantastic cast, one of the year’s best ensembles, right down to even seemingly small, insignificant roles, like a nurse at a hospital, or some of Kumail’s family members and friends.
The main cast is simply stellar. Oscar-winner Holly Hunter and Emmy-winner Ray Romano deliver tour de force performances, and are part of both some of the funniest and most heart-wrenching scenes in the film. (Hunter is up for a number of supporting actress awards for her role, so far).
And Kazan and Nanjiani shine on the screen, and should rightfully expect their stars to shine more brightly, as a result of their amazing performances.
After almost seven months, it’s safe to say it’s highly unlikely “The Big Sick” will make it to local multiplexes. It’s available now on Amazon Prime and iTunes, or you can see it however which way you normally see the things that don’t make it here. But see it you should. Few movies address so many of the biggest issues of our time in such an accessible and enjoyable manner.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.