Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. The Big Sick was one of the most talked about movies coming out Sundance and I was psyched to see it. Overhype is a very real thing and although I purposefully avoided any plot specifics the general buzz around The Big Sick raised my expectations to some pretty astronomical heights.
So when I say the movie sailed clear over the super high bar the festival hype had already set for it you should know that's a pretty big accomplishment.
One of the big reasons the movie works is because it feels authentic and it feels authentic because this shit actually happened. In The Big Sick Kumail Nanjiani plays himself early in his career when he was doing small comedy sets while being an Uber driver on the side. He meets an outspoken blonde named Emily at one of his shows and they hit it off despite neither one wanting to enter into a relationship.
Kumail's Pakistani family is very adamant about the whole arranged marriage thing and he knows a white girl won't fly with them while Emily has just gone through a divorce and doesn't want another marriage.
Naturally they fall in love and have to deal with all the baggage that comes with both people. What's great about what they do here though is you have the typical romantic comedy meet-cute first act, but then things take a left turn when they realize their chances of a successful future together are slim and decide to part ways. Then another curveball is thrown into the mix when Emily falls ill and Kumail finds himself responsible for helping bring her family in when she's put into a medically induced coma.
All this actually happened! And it makes for a fascinatingly complex series of emotions on display. Kumail doesn't fall in love with Emily when her life is at risk and he risks losing her. He already loved her, but this bizarre situation forces him to reevaluate his earlier boneheaded decision to let her go in favor of pleasing his family.
While he comes to this realization there's no guarantee that Emily will feel the same way when (and if) she pulls through this. All the while he's dealing with her fairly antagonistic mom and dad, played perfectly by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter who only know Kumail as the guy that fucked up the relationship with their daughter right before she got sick.
In order for the whole story to work you have to not only fall in love with both Kumail and Emily individually, you have to adore them as a couple. You have to be invested in their relationship and you only get about 10-15 minutes of them actually in a relationship before things sour.
I'm not sure how they made it work so well, but I have a hunch that feeling of authenticity I mentioned earlier plays a big part of their success. It also helps that Kumail is funny as hell and Zoe Kazan is able to match him with a big, goofy personality of her own.
As characters they are flawed, but not broken. Nobody really needs to be fixed. On the most base level, beneath all the insecurities and feelings of responsibility to other people, their connection is as strong as any happy couple. That makes you think these two deserve each other and whatever happiness that results from that coupling. You root for these guys and when things get fucked up you feel as sad as they do.
That old tired critic cliché of “I laughed and I cried” fits the bill here. The movie moves at a quick pace, never lingering too long on one particular beat so that it always feels fresh. The writing is nuanced and funny. Michael Showalter's direction is assured, but not showy. The chemistry between Kumail and Zoe leaps off the screen. The whole thing is outstanding and The Big Sick has taken an early lead on my list of favorite movies of 2017.