MOVIE REVIEW: The Big Sick is refreshingly original
ROMANTIC comedies aren't exactly the flavour of the month.
It seems cinema-goers currently prefer their romance as a side serving in an action blockbuster or superhero jaunt, rather than as a main course.
The Big Sick, not exactly the most pleasant sounding movie title, cuts through the current cinema line-up like a hit of citrus after a rich meal.
Based on the real-life courtship between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, the film tells the story of the Pakistani-born aspiring comedian and Uber driver (Kumail as himself) and grad student Emily (Zoe Kazan).
Kumail and Emily, his real-life wife, wrote the screenplay for The Big Sick, which is one reason why it feels so authentic.
What starts as a casual courtship - with Emily telling comedian/Uber driver Kumail they 'can't keep doing this' before immediately pashing him - turns into a lovely relationship.
But unbeknownst to Emily, Kumail still indulges his very traditional Pakistani parents in regular family dinners where prospective wives turn up to meet him in what his mum hopes will lead to an arranged marriage to 'a good Muslim girl'.
How Kumail navigates the cultural differences between his Pakistani heritage and his life in Chicago could be a movie in itself, but this is just the jumping off point for The Big Sick's real drama.
As talk of getting serious and meeting the parents arises, Emily discovers Kumail's box of headshots of his prospective brides. To him it's an afterthought but, of course, to Emily it looks like a dossier of beautiful women.
An argument ensues and when Kumail admits he's not sure if he can see a future where his parents approve of Emily, they break up.
But shortly after, Kumail gets a phone call that changes everything.
Emily is in hospital. Her college friends have exams, so he goes to keep her company. But when her condition quickly deteriorates, it's left to him to make important decisions on her behalf - like putting her into an induced coma - and to break the news to her parents, played perfectly by Ray Romano and Helen Hunt.
When Emily's parents arrive from North Carolina, they're rightly wary of the man who broke their daughter's heart.
But the traumatic situation gradually builds an understanding between them, serving up some of the most touching and funny moments in the film.
All of this parental bonding is lost on Emily when she wakes up. The last thing she remembers about Kumail is how much of a jerk he was.
Considering Kumail and Emily wrote this film together, you know things will work out but how they get there is where the meat of this film lies.
It's still an unexpected course of events that take you from laughter to heartbreak in a way that never feels saccharine or unrealistic.
The film could have been a tad shorter but that's a minor gripe.
Kumail's deadpan delivery makes for some laugh-out-loud moments; one in particular is, thankfully, not spoiled in the trailer.
It's nice to see a film 'based on a true story' that steers clear of Hollywood's traditional rom com treatment.
The Big Sick is refreshing and original. Book it in for your next date night.
It opens nationally today.
The Big Sick
Stars: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano.
Director: Michael Showalter
Verdict: 4 stars