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“The Big Sick” balances comedy with difficult social issues of today’s relationships

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The summer movie lineup is often packed with blockbuster titles from high-budget and well established franchises. This year was no different, with its fair share of winners and losers but also a few surprise films.

“The Big Sick” is a romantic comedy about two 20-something-year-old lovers who face cultural obstacles in their hopes of a happy life. The film follows Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) who is a Pakistani Muslim working in Chicago as a comedian while driving for Uber to make up the rest of his income.

During one of Kumail’s shows, he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) with whom he hooks up with that night. Feelings remain strong after the night, even after the pair agrees they would never speak to each other again. The couple soon enters into a relationship but all the while Kumail’s family attempts to set him up with a Pakistani women in accordance with their customs.

After Emily discovers Kumail never told his parents about her, Kumail is forced to explain his family only wants him to marry another Muslim. Emily herself is not a Muslim and does not fully understand Kumail’s culture. Despite pressure from his parents, Kumail does not accept all aspects of his Muslim culture either. Emily is still upset about the situation and leaves not to be seen again by Kumail for multiple weeks.

When the couple is united again, Kumail is standing in front of Emily’s hospital bed after she was diagnosed with a serious lung infection. With Emily’s parents away in North Carolina, the doctor requires a parent or spouse signature for her to be placed in a medically induced coma. Kumail signs the form as Emily’s husband so she can be placed in the coma. This decision haunts him for much of the film.

Kumail then contacts Emily’s parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano). Both soon come to the hospital to support Emily but resent Kumail having heard of the couples break up prior to her infection. Kumail works to win the parents over while Emily struggles to recover from the infection and come out of the coma.      

Being distributed by Amazon Studios, the movie leaves an expectation of a straight to streaming low budget film. Instead, “The Big Sick” will surely become a classic among indie films that also succeeded among a mainstream audience.

The film is incredibly funny, even at times when humor is least expected. As the story progresses, Kumail’s chemistry with Beth and Terry develop into some great moments. For Ray Romano, his performance as Terry is arguably his best since “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

The heart and humor that makes “The Big Sick” great comes just as much from great acting as the films background. The movie is based on a true story of the films star actor. Kumail is interestingly playing himself in the film adaptation of his own life. His own wife, Emily Gordon (who is portrayed in the film by Zoe Kazan) wrote the script for the movie with him.

It is difficult to find other films that are as emotionally gripping, yet tearfully funny, as “The Big Sick.” A film this touching is something that only comes around once a year. But in the romantic comedy genre, this may be the best film of the last decade. 

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