Kumail Nanjiani is speedily becoming one of the funniest comedians in Hollywood. He does great work in both Silicon Valley and his standup specials, where he pokes him at himself and his Pakistani upbringing. He brings his distinct humor in The Big Sick which he co-wrote with his wife, Emily V. Gordon. The story is based on Gordon and Nanjiani’s budding relationship and the racial tensions that came with it. The film is very charming and never loses its humor even when being mixed with drama.
Kumail Nanjiani (the actor names the character after himself) is a struggling comic in Chicago when he meets Emily Gardener (Zoe Kazan) at one of his shows. The two immediately hit it off and start a relationship. However, on the other side of the spectrum, Kumail’s family life is complicated; his parents make him pray five times a day, and his mother constantly invites suitors over for a potential arranged marriage.
After a big fight between Kumail and Emily, Emily goes into a medically induced coma after a serious infection is found in her lungs. While she is in the hospital, Kumail tries to strike up an awkward relationship with Emily’s parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) when they come into town to care for their daughter.
The Big Sick has Nanjiani’s schtick written all over it (and that’s not a bad thing at all). One of his recurring gimmicks is his isolation from his Pakistani culture. This film even opens up with him making fun of the culture saying that it’s pretty much the same as America except that they pray five times a day. He doesn’t even hold back from the controversial material (he jokingly comments that Pakistan lost 19 of their best guys on 9/11). The great thing is that the humor is never too much. Nanjiani and Gordon keep the jokes consistent but not overbearing, allowing them to happen naturally.
Kazan and Nanjiani’s chemistry was fine if not lacking a bit in some scenes. However, the most memorable relationship was between Kumail and Emily’s parents, as they both come to terms with Emily’s condition. Romano has always been one of television’s best dads, and he continues to live up to that standard in this film. Nanjiani isn’t even a father, but he was able to write in some hilarious dad jokes for Romano’s character.
The only flaw that is present is that it’s a little too long (though that shouldn’t be surprising considering that this is a Judd Apatow production). The film has multiple places where it can end, but it kept wringing out more material to the point where it got tiresome. Unlike other Apatow productions, the runtime is bearable because of the pleasant characters and plot.
This is a reprint of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. To read more coverage from the festival, go here.