There's nothing overly convenient about husband-and-wife screenwriters Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon's feature debut: no rom-com cheese, no onslaught of genre tropes, no cause for eye-rolling whatsoever. Instead, it truthfully portrays the shifting cultural and romantic landscape of the U.S. Director Michael Showalter, a career screenwriter himself, knows how to let the script tell the story without sacrificing his creative vision.
The Big Sick is based on Nanjiani and Gordon's real courtship in Chicago. After they meet in a bar, five months fly by, filled with stand-up comedy gigs, fun dates, and Nanjiani's Pakistani family comically berating him for not consenting to an arranged marriage. Little more can be said without revealing the title's meaning. At a glance, the premise seems well-worn, but the film's beautiful and difficult scenarios elevate the rom-com genre.
The performances are uniformly magnificent. Naturally, Nanjiani does a fine job of playing himself, with that perpetual little smirk TV fans know from his role on Silicon Valley. Zoe Kazan is winning as Gordon, and Ray Romano, as her father, crushes it so hard you forget his sitcom days. In her best performance since Top of the Lake, Holly Hunter exhibits commanding charm.
The Big Sick is at once familiar, touching, quick-witted, and grave. It invites conversation and introspection about romance, culture clash, death, and the ever-widening generational gap. At two hours, it felt like the shortest rom-com I've ever seen. In fact, I want the next chapter, and I want it to be two hours long, too.