Magazine article Variety

The Big Sick

Magazine article Variety

The Big Sick

Article excerpt

The Big Sick

Director: Michael Showalter

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano

Every year filmmakers flock to Sundance with deeply personal movies inspired by their lives and experiences. But rarely do those films also fire on all cylinders as fully fleshed-out pieces of entertainment. Comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani and writer Emily V. Gordon mine their personal history for laughs, heartache, and hard-earned insight in "The Big Sick," a film that's by turns romantic, rueful, and hilarious.

A reliable scene stealer in both film and TV (perhaps most notably on HBO's sterling "Silicon Valley"), Nanjiani is overdue for a lead role - and if it takes playing a character loosely based on himself in a movie co-written with his wife, so be it. Nanjiani and Gordon manage the tricky feat of crafting characters who feel both undeniably authentic and yet also like endearing comic creations. In that way, "The Big Sick" ranks alongside the very best of producer Judd Apatow's work, and marks a significant step up in matu- rity and groundedness for helmer Michael Showalter ("Hello, My Name Is Doris").

Opening on Nanjiani's days as a struggling Chicago comic, the backstage shenanigans and shaggy-dog storytelling initially bring to mind Louis C.K.'s "Louie." But rather than one more bigscreen story that can't quite keep up with today's small-screen efforts, "The Big Sick" has a full meal in store. It begins with a meet cute between Kumail and Emily (Zoe Kazan), who heckles him during a performance and ultimately agrees to go home with him the same night.

The push-pull of their courtship is charted through Kumail's self-proclaimed "dweeby" adoration for classic horror and Emily's open-book nature. Conflict looms in the form of Kumail's strict Muslim mother (Zenobia Shroff), who doesn't go so far as to arrange a marriage, but invites a different eligible Pakistani woman to "drop by" at every family dinner. Even as Kumail and Emily grow closer, he knows that introducing her to his parents means certain exile, and it's a risk he's not willing to take.

Where most movies might be content to follow the culture-clash comedy through its typical ups and downs, "The Big Sick" proves to be a far messier affair. As in real life, Emily contracts a mysterious infection and is hospitalized and put into a medically induced coma. …

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