Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: "The Big Sick" is a romantic comedy for those who hate romantic comedies.

The Big Sick Review
"I wish I could just, get into a relationship and relax"

I don't know if that's the exact quote, but I know its close. Its a moment when a Pakistani woman is having a real discussion with Kumail Nanjiani, the lead character of "The Big Sick," playing a fictional version of himself. Kumail is a Pakistani American who has parents with traditional Pakistani values, and all movie long they are trying to get Kumail to meet several potential Pakistani women for an arranged marriage. Kumail isn't interested though, he's not interested in any of the women. Why? Because he has a crush on a different girl. The rub is that this girl he is crushing on is a white woman, which is the mortal sin according to his family. But as Kumail stands in front of the home of his parents' latest marriage candidate, there is a very real moment. A moment where the candidate unleashes everything that bothers her about the old traditions from their old country. It shows that not only is it tough to meet all these potential marriage candidates if you are a Pakistani male, there is tons of pressure on Pakistani women to be the best possible candidates. Its a very real moment that hit in the heart in a way I wasn't expecting.

This is what separates "The Big Sick" from several other romantic comedies. Yes, this is a movie about a romance between Kumail and Emily (Zoe Kazan) the white girl he falls for. Yes, it is an incredibly funny. But this is not the same kind of romantic comedy we are used to. I detest most romantic comedies. They are so sappy, so cheesy, so full of grotesque one-liners that I can't focus on the films on its own terms. I have known people who have watched boat loads of these movies and feel like that is how love is really like. But romantic comedies are not a reflection of real life. They are fairy tales. They are phony. They are so far from real life that its almost scary. Its sad that people watch these movies and expect to have their happily-ever-after in a similar fashion. Not trying to say that I don't believe in love. Because I do. I married the woman of my dreams, of that I am positive. But it was a long road to figure out how right for each other we were, and I will admit that there were many times before our engagement that we nearly called it quits. Another thing "The Big Sick" says is that love is not easy. I wholeheartedly agree. Love is never easy. Whether its with your spouse, or your family or your best friends or shit, even your dog. Love is not easy. You have to work at it, you have to throw your entire self at it. You have to grow with it. Most romantic comedies never show that.

I think "The Big Sick" feels revolutionary in the genre because its based on a true story. This is Kumail telling a fictional version of how he met his white wife. Maybe that's why Kumail and Emily don't feel like the typical characters we encounter in romantic comedies. This is not a movie about a loser guy who miraculously gets the girl whose out of his league. This isn't a movie where two people come together, tears them apart, and then fate brings them back together. These are real people, authentic people. They have their own baggage, their own quirks, their own insecurities. Their relationship blossoms slowly, and builds authentically. I think that's why so many people are identifying with this movie, because its a romantic comedy that is about real people. 

Kumail and Emily find out they like each other. They begin dating. Kumail doesn't tell his family that he's dating a white girl, or otherwise his mother will "fucking ghost him" as his brother Naveed (Adeel Akhtar) tells him. Kumail can't help his feelings, he really likes Emily. But he hasn't told her about his family's expectations or the dozens of marriage candidates he secretly meets. Emily finds out the hard way about Kumail and his secrets, and she leaves him. He tries to get her back, but to no avail. Then she gets a really bad infection and spends several days in the hospital, and while she is there, Kumail examines his life and tries to figure out what he truly wants.

The film works not only because it feels real, but oh my goodness, its funny as shit. Kumail is hilarious all by himself, and does a good job bringing the laughs. He is a stand-up comedian, and lots of the movie is dedicated to his stand-up routines, and its all very funny. The movie features several hilarious situations. As much as I love the cast, I think the work done by Adeel Akhtar is the very best. Adeel steals the show as Kumail's brother and viewers should keep a close eye on him in each scene he's in. You will also love the work done by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, who play Emily's parents. Kumail's friends played by Kurt Braunohler, Aidy Bryant and Bo Burnham all have time to shine. In fact, it seems like each character, whether they are leading or supportive, all do solid work. 

Its amazing how shockingly "real life" this film feels. I would really wish that every romantic comedy felt this way. Its amazing to me that within two weeks of this roller coaster of a summer we have had, movie wise, I have seen two of my favorite films of the year in that period. Between this and "Baby Driver," I can only hope the hits keep coming.

FINAL GRADE: A

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