Actor, stand-up comic and screenwriter of Pakistani origin, Kumail Nanjiani, has pulled off a minor miracle — a well received romantic drama about culture clash, based on his own love story with his real-life wife and co-writer of The Big Sick, Emily Gordon. Nanjiani plays himself while Zoe Kazan plays Gordon.
Kumail is the younger son of Pakistani immigrants (Anupam Kher-Zenobia Shroff), who wants a life away from the expectations of a traditional family. A running gag is a new young woman appearing at dinnertime, “just dropping in” as his mother says, so that Kumail can pick a bride. But the aspiring stand-up comic and Uber driver falls in love with Emily.
While she talks to her parents (Holly Hunter-Ray Romano) about him, Kumail does not dare to tell his folks, which leads to them breaking up. Then she is hospitalised with a mysterious ailment and put into induced coma. A sense of duty probably drilled into him, Kumail becomes her parents’ pillar of strength, while they cope with Emily’s illness and living in an unfamiliar place.
In the film’s funniest scene, Emily’s parents accompany a reluctant Kumail to his show, and end up fighting with a racist (“go back to ISIS”) heckler.
The film manages to put all stereotypes about race in — Pakistanis have arranged marriages, white women are ‘easy’ — without offending anyone.
The one who punctures the happy picture is one of the young Pakistani women Kumail’s mother has lined up, who tells him about her suffocation with tradition. Kumail, who normally takes the path of least resistance (pretending to pray and lying about studying to be a lawyer), does muster up the nerve to ask his father why they brought him to America, if they don’t want him to live like an American.
Nanjiani is a good actor and even enlivens the dull portions in hospital, but the finest performances are by Hunter and Romano. If nothing else, The Big Sick is a crash course in how to deal with racism and unrealistic family expectations — with humour.
Rating - 3/5