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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Film Review: The Big Sick (2017)

"Can you imagine a world in which we end up together?"
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano
Written By: Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon
Directed By: Michael Showalter
Release Date: June 23, 2017 
Based upon the real-life story of their relationship, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (who also stars in the film) have penned a surprisingly touching and complex narrative that stands as a breath of fresh air for the slowly dying rom-com genre. Though it takes the risk of almost being too long like that of an Apatow-attached comedy, what The Big Sick shines at is making every minute of the film not only worthwhile, but strangely personable and touching.
When Emily (played by Zoe Kazan) and Kumail, who plays a fictional version of himself, meet at one of Kumail's stand up shows, they immediately hit it off regardless of the differences in where they are in life. Emily is a divorced, psychology student with two lovingly dysfunctinal parents, played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. Kumail is a part-time comedic and Uber driver with a strict Pakastani family that constantly badgers him about his love life. They set him up on dates he never intends to call back, but he subjects himself to their guilt trippy dialogue and weekly critiques of his lifestyle in order to keep them happy. Though Kumail and Emily intially agree to not see each other again after spending a night together, a relationship slowly begins to develop over the course of a few months as they get to know one another. However, through the laughter and joy they share with one another, the looming presence of Kumail's family threatens to destoy all that he's built with Emily. Ultimately it does when she finds out that he's kept her a secret from his parents, but shortly after they break-up, she falls gravely ill and is placed in a coma while all he can do is sit and wait for her to wake up.
A majority of the film revolves around Emily's stay in the hospital and Kumail's interactions with her family as they oversee it along with him, which gives Romano and Hunter the space to elaborate on parental character figures that wouldn't get much screen time in any other romantic comedy. Traditionally, parents are depicted as the root to all of a protagonist's issues, which can be seen in the opening of Apatow's Trainwreck which depicts young Amy Shumer's father warning her not to ever fall in love. They're simply plot devices, if anything else. Here, that convetion is seemingly followed as Kumail's parents threaten to ostracize him from their family if he falls in love with a non-Pakastani woman, but this all done for the sake of exploring the stuggles of a group of people that typically aren't portrayed on-screen. Though Apatow's films typically rely on the protagonist learning how to navigate the adult world in a immature manner, there is surprising pathos that lies in the cultural element involved in Kumail's journey. The cultural obstacles that Kumail has to overcome lie not only his own traditionalist family and their interference in his progressive lifestyle, but those that involve the changes he has to go through to be accepted by Emily and her family after he's hurt her due to his inability to commit. 
Films like Knocked Up and This is 40, depict the everyday lives of immature men trapped in mundane existences that seem to be going nowhere. Kumail relates to the men in these films because before he meets Emily, he is content with forever lying to his family and doing comedy shows. Though his friends present the idea of doing something bigger to him and it interests him, he is, once again, held back by his family's disapproval for his career choice. The events that drive the film's narratives in both of the previously mentioned films are seemingly mundane events that everyday people can relate to like going bankrupt and expecting a child. However, they are also events that ultimately will change their lives forever, forcing them to grow up for the sake of their familes. Here, Kumail has more of a choice and its his family that is inhibiting him from growing up. He has no moral obligation to assist Emily in the hospital after they've broken up, as he's painfully reminded his by her family, he chooses to stick around. In both Knocked Up and This is 40, though the protagno find meaning in their existence,  they are still meandering through a stunded adolescecnt phase in their lives at the end of the film, while Kumail eventally moves on from this with the help of  Emily's seasoned and idiosyncratic parents. Their energy, eccentricty and authenticity when it comes to caring for their daughter clashes the image of family practices that he's used to. These minor characters are brought to life through their constant bickering with one another and their frustrating dialogues with the doctors and Kumail, who is just doing his best to help. And it's because of their cultural differeces and the amount of time they spend together exploring them that Kumail realizes that everyone is simply trying to do their best, as well.

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