Saturday 5 August 2017

Film Review: The Big Sick

Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani hits it for six in his heartfelt rom-com, The Big Sick.

Starring Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick is a semi-autobiographical rom-com co-written by Nanjiani with real-life wife Emily V. Gordon. 

A fictionalised account of how they met, it sees a struggling Pakistani stand-up comic slash Uber driver called Kumail meet and fall in love with a young American girl called Emily (Zoe Kazan), much to the dismay of his deeply traditional parents. Kumail’s parents are of the opinion that he should take a Pakistani wife that they find for him, and upon learning of his relationship with date Emily, expel him from the family.

The Big Sick is one of those exceedingly rare films that effortlessly services not one or two but three genres in equal measure. Firstly you’ve got romance; who doesn’t love a good love story? The Big Sick’s love story is one of the best and most authentic in the last few years. 

Secondly you’ve got comedy; again, The Big Sick comes up trumps. It’s surprisingly witty and sharp, and you’ll often find yourself missing snippets of dialogue because you’re still chuckling from the last gag. Jokes flow thick and fast, but the film never resort’s to lazy physical or crude humour. Again, the key word here is authenticity – the characters, their personalities and the quirks they come with feel tangible. 

Thirdly, you’ve got drama. This is the most surprisingly effective aspect of The Big Sick. For the whole first act, everything is strumming along at a fun and lively if fairly throwaway pace. It’s cute and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Then, the narrative shifts into something different; all of a sudden we’re presented with an all-together different film. By the time we’ve reached the third act we’ve travelled through a number of effective character arcs and a full spectrum of emotions – the narrative is resonant, touching, spirited and whimsical – sometimes all in the same scene.

The Big Sick works on a number of levels, chief among which is its willing rebuff of common rom-com tropes; you won’t bear to witness to any frantic dashes through the airport terminal or teary kisses during a midnight rainstorm here. The arguments feel like arguments a real couple would have; the jokes they share equally as relatable. 

The film also soars because of its cast; Nanjiani and Kazan are an effervescent pairing that share palpable chemistry. Likewise, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano add depth to the story as Emily’s parents. However, it’s Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff and Adeel Akhtar that shine as Kumail’s disapproving father, mother and brother respectively. 

The Verdict: 9/10

The Big Sick is a film that will make you smile, weep and cheer; it balances whimsy and sincerity to create something truly memorable, handling its tonal shifts with confidence. Whether you’re nine or 90, there is a powerful resonance in the story that will pull at your heartstrings – be sure to seek it out and thank me later.

The Big Sick is in cinemas across Australia now.

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