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Movie Night – ‘The Big Sick’ offers humor, touching moments

By Bradley Griffith

If you’re a little tired of the massive action films and epic superhero extravaganzas (while many of these movies are great, sometimes you just need a change) but still want to watch a movie that’s entertaining, you may want to consider “The Big Sick.”  It’s a sneaky funny movie that is now available for home rental, for free if you are an Amazon Prime member.

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a young man living in Chicago trying to find his way in the world. His family moved to America from Pakistan when Kumail was 14. Kumail is struggling with the traditional Pakistani ways of his family, such as arranged marriages and devout devotion to Islam, and his integration into American life.

In this clash of cultures Kumail prefers the American way of life. He is dead-set against arranged marriage and no longer practices Islam. He can’t tell his parents, Azmat (Anupam Kher) and Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff), this or they will kick him out of the family. Kumail may not adhere to all their traditional values, but he loves his family deeply. 

Kumail continues to accept invitations to his parents’ home for dinner knowing that his mother has planned for a good Pakistani girl to drop by during the meal to meet Kumail.  He endures these visits because it makes his parents happy. He dutifully makes conversations with the girls and then never sees them again.

Kumail’s life changes when he meets Emily Gardner (Zoe Kazan). Emily is in graduate school and swears that she has no room for a relationship in her life. Despite her reticence, they quickly fall in love and become inseparable. Until Emily finds out about the arranged marriage plans of Kumail’s parents. Emily immediately breaks off the relationship.

The movie gets interesting when Emily contracts a massive infection and is put in intensive care in a medically-induced coma. Emily’s parents, Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter), come to take care of her. They know that Emily had broken up with him and, at first, resent his presence. Over the course of Emily’s illness Kumail forms a bond with Terry and Beth that he didn’t think was possible.

The story to the movie may not sound good on paper, but the movie brings it to life in a way that makes it interesting and entertaining. The movie is loosely based on the true story of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, who together wrote the screenplay. The movie feels more like something that could happen to real people in real life than just another movie.

“The Big Sick” is less about the relationship between Kumail and Emily and more about the relationship between Kumail and Terry and Beth and Kumail and his parents. Kumail is forced to deal with the hostile Terry and Beth because he is in love with Emily. Kumail also loves his family and doesn’t want to disappoint them. He is in a classic catch 22 situation where no matter what he does it’s the wrong thing.

The best part of the movie is its humor. Nanjiani delivers his lines with a perfect deadpan affect to the point that it takes you a few minutes to understand he is joking and really get his sense of humor. The humor is understated, dry, and witty. Watching it a second time may lead you to find jokes you missed on the first viewing.

“The Big Sick” is mostly a comedy. But there are several moments of unexpected and surprising gravity and intimacy that catch you off guard. It explores issues of parenting and family, sometimes in a serious way and sometimes in a way that makes you laugh. It’s a good combination.

“The Big Sick” is the type of movie that grows on you. At first, I didn’t think it was very good. As the movie went on I began to laugh more and realized that the characters and the story snuck up on me. I realized I was enjoying myself watching this oddball comedy.

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Grade: B+

Rated R for language, including some sexual references.