Quick Hit: Perfectly capturing the awkward balance of love, the courting of a significant other’s parents, and how life is full of side plots.
There is a moment in the center of The Big Sick, that our main character Kumail Nanjiani (played by Kumail Nanjiani) sits inside a car and listens to the voicemails of his girlfriend. The voicemails range from “quick, call me back” to explanations of her attempts to cook Pakistani food. It’s one of the most real moments in what is probably the most real movie that I’ve watched this year.
Part of that may be because it’s the true story of Kumail and wife Emily V. Gordon’s meet cute and subsequent love story. As previously stated, Kumail plays himself, but Emily is played by Zoe Kazan. Both of the actors are tremendous here. They excel in the moments that get brushed over in romantic comedies that made classics like When Harry Met Sally – rarely is love something that doesn’t happen conversationally. It’s something that is done exquisitely in the Before Trilogy, which I’ve stated is a near perfect set of films. Here, the little moments that are covered – late night hidden trips to the bathroom, attempts to get your significant other to watch something that they have no interest in watching (this particularly rings true for me – they are watching the great Vincent Price after all) – they are full of second glances and quick looks at each other. That’s love in a way that is rarely captured on screen.
Orbiting around all of this is Kumail’s family friction that comes from being the son of Pakistani immigrants. We get an intense family drama that is often played for laughs, but the laughs never undercut the seriousness of the situation. Kumail is rebelling against what his family states is the only way of life. This friction eventually causes what is one of the meanest, nastiest, but most heartfelt movie break-ups that I've ever seen. The scene causes your own heart to break as well as the characters.
Halfway through, the movie turns into something that is nearly different all together – the story of meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the first time. Everyone knows that you have to impress them, while still somehow maintaining yourself. When you have a particularly strong relationship, this can be tenuous at best – when your relationship is stretched to the limit, or even broken, the prospect of meeting someone’s parents is even worse. Here we get Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, that excel in the roles they are given. Romano is rarely as successful as he is here – playing the fatherly, not funny humor for laughs in a way that he made an entire show out of. Hunter allows her rougher edges to shine through, and the two mirror the problems of real relationships for the new couple.
All of this is wrapped in a package that illustrates how love can take over your life, while still allowing life to go on. While this is occurring with Emily, Kumail is still trying to make it as a comedian. He’s still having dinner with his family, having to drive people in his Uber. It’s wonderful that a movie takes the time to show that time hasn’t stopped. There are still moments where you have to get things done, even if your mind isn’t in it at all. Despite a runtime of over two hours, there isn’t a moment in this film that I would cut.
Overall, this movie ranks among some of my favorite romance comedies of the last few years – Before Midnight, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and 500 Days of Summer. Is it any wonder that I’m giving it an A+”?
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