Culture in Love
I have thrown the phrase “best movie of 2017” too often this summer/year, but this just goes to prove how amazing this year has been for movies. Instead, I will describe The Big Sick as the best “culturally relevant and refreshing” movie of 2017 that breathed new life into the romantic comedy genre. In a summer filled with blockbusters and sequels, it is nice to see a simple yet true story how two people from very different cultures came to meet and the ups and downs of their relationship. This movie easily is a must see for its spot on comedy, relevant cultural issues, and relatable situations to anyone who has not agreed with what their parents expect of them.
Based on the true story, The Big Sick follows Kumail Nanjiani (as himself), a stand-up comic in Chicago, as he begins dating Emily (Zoe Kazan) who he meets at one of his shows. The two kick it off with each and seem destined for one another. However, Kumail’s Pakistani Muslim family is not aware of Emily and that drives a wedge between these two kindred spirits. After their breakup, Emily is rushed to the hospital due to a mysterious illness and is on the verge of death. Her parents come to visit Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano) placing Kumail in the most bizarre “meet the parents” situation.
You’re probably reading that synopsis and thinking, “I definitely know how this is going to end”. While yes you may be able to predict what happens, it is all about the journey with this film and The Big Sick is a highly original one. The way Kumail and Emily have constructed their own love story to the big screen is masterful and is endearing yet heartbreaking to watch. You really feel the weight of their relationship early on even though Emily is played by a different actress. It’s good that we feel the weight, because that make it all the more tense when she in a coma fighting for her life. The way Kumail has to navigate both her parents and his own cultural practices is the heart of the movie and makes for an excellent drama.
Kumail does a wonderful job in this role, which shouldn’t be surprising considering he is playing himself. There were many times where I was in stitches laughing at his jokes be it cultural references that I can relate to, or the quirkiness of his situation. He is quick in his comedic timing and really sells the awkward tension of meeting with Emily’s parents. Speaking of Emily’s parents, they also do a fantastic job in their relationship with Kumail. They are all put in a awkward situation and seeing Beth’s initial hostile reaction towards Kumail or Terry’s attempt to make jokes with him are both hilarious and sweet to see. This interaction is what makes the film stand out from other romantic comedies as it poses the center on familial relationships. Each parent gets their own moment to shine with Kumail and the lessons he learns from there are never forced or easy to understand, just like how life is.
The other side of things regards Kumail’s parents and this is where the film continued its grip on me. He does not agree with the cultural practices of his family as they want him to marry a Pakistani women and have been known to shun members of their family who do not follows this practice. Kumail even says, “arranged marriage is called marriage in my culture” and this gives you a sense of the intensity of his situation. While the parents may seem cruel in this regard, you can still tell they clearly love their son and just want the best path for him especially with all of the sacrifices they have made for him. The dichotomy between him and his parents also provides for some great humor as the mom continually tries setting Kumail up with different Pakistani woman despite Kumail being in a relationship with Emily.
This is a romantic comedy, but it subverts all the typical tropes that come with the genre. This is mainly helped because this is Kumail’s true story but also in how he delivers all the humor to keep it from being too dark. When you feel the film may be getting too serious, there is always a good joke or funny comment to break the tension. This is example of how life can be, even during the dark times humor can be a great way to provide some levity. The film illustrates that beautifully and you’re never sad for too long. Also, the “meet the parents aspect” does not play out how you may think it will with some big fallout happening. There is sense of authenticity to these conversations that makes the film as great as it is. It is much more realistic and intimate and you feel like a fly on the wall dropping in on these conversations.
The cultural implications is something I really relate to coming from an Indian background. Kumails parents want a certain lifestyle for their son and he feels trapped. This is an easily relatable situation for anyone who has parents and does not agree with their wishes despite not being specifically in the culture. Whether that be what they are doing for a weekend or big career decisions, we all can identify times where we have not understood our parents wishes and just want to carry on our own path. Seeing Kumail try to explain his desires to his parents can be heartbreaking on both sides, as his parents bring up some good points on how the situation reflects them. Our parents clearly love us, they just want the best possible outcome for us and Kumail’s struggle easily highlights that perfectly.
This is a true story and with that some events are either cut out, put in, or exaggerated for the “Hollywood” feel (Kumail and Emily were not broken up before the illness occurred). This never detracts from the movie, however, and when adapting a real life story to the big screen, some artistic liberties have to be taken. The movie keeps you invested in the characters and situations from start to finish and never makes you groan at the romance or feel weird about events.
The Big Sick is a surprisingly fun, heartfelt and humorous romantic comedy. Not only that, it doubles as a family drama giving it the extra layers it needs to become memorable. All of the characters are excellent and help rope you into this world and make it endearing to watch. Even though you may be able to predict what happens, it is all about how you get to the end and the way these interactions unfold in their hilarious and touching way. I would definitely recommend this film to everyone and be just as moved by it as I was.