The Big Sick

Filed in Film by on February 10, 2018 0 Comments

Interracial dating, an increasingly common phenomenon in Western societies, is the subject of Michael Showalter’s romantic comedy, The Big Sick.

It’s about the on-again, off-again relationship between a Pakistani American standup comedian and an Anglo postgraduate student. Kumail Nanjiani, playing himself, meets Emily Gardner (Zoe Kazan) in a  comedy nightclub one night. In a clever maneuver, he wins her over by writing her name in Urdu. In short order, they go back to his place and have sex.

Playing it ultra cool, they both claim they are not really dating. In reality, they’re smitten. This could be the start of something, but Kumail’s traditional mother has something else in mind for her son — a Pakistani bride. She introduces him to a succession of suitable women, but Kumail opposes arranged marriages, or, as he calls them, “Pakistani romances.”

Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani

He would much rather find a partner himself. His mother is undeterred. “You have to work at it,” she says. “You have to stay open.”

But Kumail has his eye on Emily, a spirited young thing who aspires to be a psychologist.  They meet again, but Emily seems to have reservations. “We have to stop doing this,” she says insincerely.

When Kumail informs his brother he’s seeing a “white” woman, he advises him to slow down. “Eventually, you have to marry a Pakistani girl,” he says. “End it now.”

When, as expected, Kumail meets Emily again, they admit they’re “overwhelmed” by each other. But the road ahead is anything but smooth. Emily’s jealousy flares when she learns that Kumail, at his persistent mother’s urging, has been in touch with Pakistani women.

Kazan acquits herself well as the temperamental Emily. One moment, she’s all smiles, but soon enough, she’s standoffish, leaving Kumail puzzled and disappointed. Kumail portrays himself without the slightest self-consciousness.

A medical emergency that lands Emily in hospital turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

Emily’s parents, Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter), are cool toward Kumail at first. “You guys broke up,” she says. “I’m not sure why you’re here.”

Ray Romano, Zoe Kazan and Holly Hunter

Terry and Beth ultimately revise their less than welcoming attitude toward Kumail. They warm to him following an unpleasant incident in his comedy club and the realization that he’s devoted to their daughter. When Emily finally recovers from her illness, she tries to push him away. He continues to court her, thinking he can reignite their mutual passion. In a deeply moving scene, he tries to convince her she’s everything he desires in a woman.

The Big Sick wrings out these roller coaster emotions with skill and panache, giving us a small but big-hearted film that is empathetic and engaging.

 

 

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