As a genre, the romantic comedy has been on its last legs lately, mired in raunch and ribald jokes on the one hand, or insipid wish-fulfillment on the other. But an otherwise endangered form gets a welcome kick in the pants in “The Big Sick,” an exhilarating, utterly endearing movie that feels like both a return to classic principles and a bracing look forward.
Kumail Nanjiani, best known for his work on the HBO series “Silicon Valley,” stars in “The Big Sick” as Kumail, a Pakistani-American stand-up comedian who is an Uber driver on the side while he works out his routine in a Chicago club.
When he’s heckled one night by a bright, blond graduate student named Emily (Zoe Kazan), the encounter leads to a funny, instant-karma one-night-stand. But what Kumail and Emily intend to be just one of those things eventually morphs into something more serious, a development that threatens Kumail’s relationship with his traditionalist parents, who are trying to fix him up with a suitable Muslim wife.
Nanjiani wrote “The Big Sick” with his real-life wife, Emily V. Gordon, whose serious illness, depicted on-screen, introduces yet one more complication into the already fraught culture clash of the story.
Loosely based on the couple’s courtship and early romance, the movie moves easily between a seemingly endless series of false starts and setbacks, which never feel forced or plot-driven, but simply a reflection of the dizzyingly overdetermined experience otherwise known as Life.
Observers of life
Kumail and Emily’s near instant recognition of each other as bright, slightly sarcastic observers of…
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