Kumail Nanjiani is one of those comedians that you have seen before. It was a minor role on television or in a film, or maybe you have even caught a bit of his stand-up. What you probably didn’t know is that he recently wrote a screenplay for a film entitled The Big Sick in which he plays himself at one of the most trying moments of his life. The Big Sick, directed by Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer) took me by surprise in a big way. I went in expecting a run of the mill story involving a comedian and his girlfriend. What I didn’t expect (and yes I didn’t do a whole lot of research beforehand) was that the story, for the most part, is true. Kumail plays himself, in a very raw, unexpected fashion he bares all for the audience to see. It is this performance that surprised me most. I knew as a comedian he had the ability to bare his soul publicly but I didn’t expect him to be able to translate his experience in such a way that is so relatable. So much even that it is hard to watch, because of its apparent true to life moments.
Our story follows Kumail, a young comedian trying to make a name for himself in Chicago. Kumail finds himself trying to find a balance between making his family happy by pretending to be far more religious than he actually is, and being the person he truly wants to be. One night during an open mic, he gets “heckled” by a young woman by the name of Emily (Zoe Kazan). As they start to hit it off and their relationship develops. It is obvious that Kumail is putting up barriers between his family identity and that of who he wants to be, both of which are bound to come crumbling down. When the two worlds finally collide, Kumail drops the ball in his relationship with Emily. Just when Kumail thinks he will never see Emily again Kumail gets called in by one of her friends to stay with her at the Emergency Room to make sure she is going to be alright, when she is put into a medically induced coma.
I did not expect this film to go the way it did. It is structured oddly and finds itself tackling three plotlines at once and the pace seems to suffer at times. The storyline you expect (the one in which Emily is sick and we are trying to see if she is going to recover) carries with it the overall development of Kumail’s character, where we see that ultimately the pace is off. The period of time in which Emily is sick is only supposed to be eight days but to your average audience member, it will seem like weeks. It is because so much and so little happens at the same time without any sort of indication of time passing by. This is my one and only big complaint and suggestion for the overall structure of the film. Where we only get to see a half an hour worth of the couple falling in love, we see five days pass over the course of an hour and a half (120 mins running time). What the film does best, is honesty. They could not have picked a better cast to express this true story. The part of Emily’s parents is played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. The pairing of Hunter and Romano is not one I would have ever imagined being successful however they play off of one another spectacularly and seem like an average southern married couple. All in all what we are left with is a much needed true life love story. On full of mistakes and awkward moments. So much of this film translates to a wide audience, covering big thematic elements of acceptance and family while still leaving room for some genuinely funny moments.
The Film 4/5
No stranger to bringing comedians visions to life Cinematographer Brian Burgoyne (Bill Burr: Walk Your Way Out, Demetri Martin: Live at the Time) works with experienced comedy Writer/Director Michael Showalter (Stella, The State, Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later) to bring this interesting take on the traditional Rom-Com. Showalter has found the perfect way to frame these characters in such a way to make you love, hate, worry, and root for them all within the span of a couple of hours (or in Emily’s case 30 mins). One thing that I could not help but notice is the effortless way Showalter captured the very essence of Nanjiani’s stand-up within Kumail’s personality in the film. This was in large part to the well-written screenplay but the ability to capture it on film is just amazing to see. The picture on the home screen is wonderful and still manages to capture my full attention, much of the film takes place between a comedy club and a hospital setting none of which allow for particularly well-lit environments, however, I did not seem to have trouble or notice any issues with the home transfer.
Picture Quality 4.5/5
Probably most famous for his work on Donnie Darko Composer Michael Andrews is no rookie to finding the absolutely perfect score to frame a film. This is no exception. In the last few years, Andrews has been finding himself working on more and more film of this nature (Funny People, Bad Teacher, Bridesmaids) most likely because of his history of working with Producer Judd Apatow. The score is simple and adds much in the way of creating tone throughout the film. The biggest worry I had when bringing this film home, was the dialogue. There are many moments in the film that move rather fast, and I was worried that I would struggle with the audio and have to keep the subtitles on. Thankfully I didn’t seem to have any problems that I can report on and comfortably left the audio at the same level throughout.
Audio Quality 5/5
Amazon/Lionsgate does well to separate the packaging for this release. The use of yellow makes a point to accent different part of the case and it definitely stands out on the shelf. The image on the front is the very same that is seen in all the advertisements I have seen so we do not get anything new there (except the Rotten Tomatoes Logo in the bottom left corner). My first and only complaint about the packaging is the dreaded cut-out on the back for the barcode, this is one of my least favorite trends as of late. On the inside, we have two discs DVD on the left-hand side and Blu-ray on the left. Here they made a unique choice instead of the plain silver disc with blue and red lettering we have solid colored discs one silver (DVD) and one blue (Blu-Ray). Unsurprisingly though we do have eco cut-outs behind the discs. The packaging overall feels solid and well put together.
The Packaging 4/5
In the way of extras The Big Sick nails it. This release has a ton to offer, in every way that I would want. We have behind the scenes, commentary, panels, and tons of laughs. I am absolutely overjoyed that this much was included in the release. The Special Features included are as follows:
- A Personal Journey: The Making of The Big Sick
- A wonderful featurette about everything that went into the making of the film
- The Real Story
- Emily and Kumail take us through the real-life story of what happened
- 2017 SXSW Film Festival Panel
- We get to see the Q & A portion of their SXSW panel
- Cast & Filmmaker Commentary
- The Big Sick: The Other Stuff
- This is a compilation of all the jokes, and outtakes that didn’t make it into the final cut
- Deleted Scenes
- The Bigger Sick: Stick Around for More Laughs
- We get to see some of the bits from The Big Sick comedy tour
Special Features 5/5
The Big Sick takes what could have been a very traditional Rom-Com and instead takes a different take on the genre. Kumail and Emily took something very unique and beautiful to their lives and turned into a film that can appeal a vast audience. The fact that it has been so well received is no surprise whatsoever. It covers topics and stereotypes we wish didn’t exist and also shines a light on a rather tough line that had to be walked by Kumail’s character. The relationship that develops between Kumail and Emily’s parents is just wonderful and poignant in such a way that I can’t stop watching. Romano, Hunter, and Kazan do so well to support Nanjiani in his first feature in a starring role that it is impossible to not find yourself smiling through most of the film. I can confidently tell you to go out and buy this one. You can do so HERE.
Overall 4/5-Highly Recommended