It’s hard nowadays to find a good romantic comedy, or even just one that transcends overworn cliches and cheesiness. The last rom-com I watched on Netflix was Playing It Cool. The cast was fantastic and the chemistry between the leads (Chris Evans and Michelle Monaghan) was tangible; the two, however, could not overcome the film’s weak plot and poorly written characters. Not only was the male lead (Evans) undeserving of sympathy, but I also found that I didn’t care if he would get the girl in the end. And this is the lovable Captain America I’m talking about. The Big Sick, however, has restored my faith in the romantic comedy genre. But romantic comedy may not be the best description for it; rather, it’s a multi-dimensional film that contains the two elements, romance and comedy, within it.
The Big Sick revolves around Kumail Nanjiani, an Uber driver and comedian, who begins dating Emily (Zoe Kazan), an audience member at one of his shows. He doesn’t reveal the relationship to his immigrant parents, who continue to set him up with Pakistani women in hopes of securing an arranged marriage. When Emily discovers this secret and realizes that Kumail sees no future with her without losing his family, she breaks up with him. Kumail later reevaluates their relationship upon the news that Emily is hospitalized – and meets her parents as well.
The cast is impeccable: Nanjiani shines as his namesake, as do the dependable Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents. Bo Burnham and “Saturday Night Live” favorite Aidy Bryant also appear in supporting roles, as fellow comedians. Aside from the cast, the movie is elevated by its solid script. The situations and dialogue are clever, culturally relevant and hilarious; look out for a great scene between Hunter’s character and a fraternity brother. There is a visible realness to the movie as well, most likely due to the true story on which it is based: Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon’s own romance. The two also wrote the screenplay together, making it all the more charming.
Not only is the movie amusing and heartbreaking, it is also important for several reasons. First, it’s very rare to see actors of South Asian descent as leads in Hollywood roles. Being of Asian descent myself, this is refreshing to see. The success of The Big Sick and other entertainment such as Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None” give us hope for more diversity in comedy, though there is still a long way to go. Secondly, the film provides insight and enlightenment into a culture that many Americans don’t know much about. Nanjiani highlights and humanizes Middle Eastern and Muslim values and practices, steering viewers away from the negative stereotypes Americans often cite in ignorance. This ties into my third point: the prominent theme of cross-cultural encounters. Through his own struggles of identity, tradition and interracial relationships, Nanjiani delves into the significance of “Americanness,” and its own contradictory nature. I believe many viewers will be able to relate to this to some degree.
The Big Sick is an intelligent romantic comedy-drama with depth, certainly not just a romantic comedy. I don’t just recommend this movie, I strongly believe people should watch it, for diversion but also for greater awareness. Nanjiani is a gem, and I think most people would agree that we need to see him more. The Big Sick arrived relatively late to Hamilton, but this is all the better for those who missed their chance during the summer. Second chances don’t come often, so I suggest that you take them when we can – you won’t regret it!
Contact Gloria Han at [email protected]