The real-life romance of Kumail Nanjiani

City Press Review

Film: The Big Sick

Director: Michael Showalter

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan

Rating: Four stars

Roles that depict Muslims have slowly become more varied and fully rounded in recent years. Where once they existed only as gun-wielding terrorists for action heroes to mow down, writers are now creating more representative depictions. Shows such as The Night Of, starring Riz Ahmed, for instance, have been lauded for humanising Muslim-American families.

Indian roles are also becoming more diverse. Where once Indian characters in Hollywood were confined to taxi drivers or horny sex gurus, writers such as comic Aziz Ansari are challenging the status quo by producing and writing successful series.

Enter into this stream Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick – a tender, charming romantic comedy that many critics predict will rake in awards come Oscar season.

Based on the real-life courtship of actor and comic Kumail Nanjiani and his wife – writer, producer, and podcast host Emily Gordon – it was produced by comedic heavyweight Judd Apatow.

The first time I saw Nanjiani on screen was when he played a horny massage therapist in slapstick Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. He was a caricature; a foreign buffoon. Thank heavens he was able to flex his acidic delivery and comedic strength in the brilliant Silicon Valley. In The Big Sick, he proves that he’s not only funny, but can hold his own in a leading role.

In it, Kumail and Emily (Zoe Kazan) meet when she heckles him during a stand-up set at a comedy club, and they fall in love. The relationship is bliss, except for one thing: Kumail has been hiding the fact that he’s dating a white woman from his conservative Muslim parents from Pakistan.

Shortly after Emily finds out and ends the relationship, she falls sick with a mysterious disease.

The film follows Kumail’s awkward bonding with her parents as the trio wrestle through Emily’s illness.

The Big Sick is tenderly funny and subverts the status quo of a slick white dude as the romantic lead. After all, people all over the world are falling in love and they don’t all look like Notting Hill’s Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts.

It’s a movie not only about real love and relationships, but a nuanced portrait of Pakistani-American families and being a second-generation immigrant in the US. Thumbs up!

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