The Big Sick (4 stars)

The Big Sick

Autobiographical culture-clash rom-com, written by and starring Kumail Nanjiani

That this unconventional, appealingly awkward romantic comedy is based on a true story makes perfect sense. Life is, after all, stranger and more messy than fiction. Leading man Kumail Nanjiani co-wrote the script with his wife Emily V Gordon and it puts their dramatic courtship centre-stage.

Nanjiani plays Kumail, an aspiring stand-up comedian and Uber driver who falls for Zoe Kazan's wannabe therapist Emily when she lets out a whoop at his comedy gig. They can't help but fall for each other despite Emily's reluctance to enter into a new relationship. Kumail, however, has bigger problems; he's obliged to marry a Muslim, either that or be cast out of his close-knit family. When the issue drives a wedge between them, the couple separate. Then Emily is struck down by a mystery illness and, as she hovers scarily close to death, Kumail becomes a regular at the hospital, getting to know her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) along the way.

Produced by Judd Apatow, it's the third feature from Michael Showalter – best known as the co-creator of cult flick Wet Hot American Summer and its Netflix spin-off series – and he's assembled quite the cast. Hunter is her usual effortlessly charismatic, firecracker self and Romano (best known for cringe-fest sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond) reins in his broader instincts to deliver a performance of surprising subtlety, while Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff are marvellously withering as Kumail's parents.

The culture-clash comedy plays out with charming, sometimes toe-curling honesty and an acknowledgement of how complicated life can get when expectations weigh heavy and tradition unceremoniously intervenes. As it takes us down a bumpy road to happily-ever-after, it runs a tad long. Nevertheless, it feels like a film in rude health – provocative, unpredictable and large on laughs. The Big Sick is the perfect cure for anyone who comes over all queasy at the mere mention of a rom-com.

General release from Fri 28 Jul.

The Big Sick

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 59min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Michael Showalter
  • Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano

Culture clash comedy written by real life couple Emily V Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. It plays out with charming, sometimes toe-curling honesty and an acknowledgement of how complicated life can get when expectations weigh heavy and tradition unceremoniously intervenes.

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