That theme, of course, was sustained primary through the film’s phenomenal performances. Beginning with the film’s central protagonist, comedian Kumail Nanjiani (of “Silicon Valley” fame) contorted himself into such a convincing portrayal of his real self, that you never really cared when his character drifted too often towards the melodramatic. Even in moments when his acting might dive a little deeper than he might be used to, Nanjiani’s own beliefs and feelings on the world worked profoundly in favor of crafting his sensitive, bumbling comedian in love. Conjuring up the cynicism of Louie C.K. in “Louie” and the off-beat satire of Aziz Ansari in his masterwork “Master of None,” Nanjiani managed to command the screen with gut-busting appeal.
The gut-busting didn’t stop there, however, as the rest of the cast shined as well. With the film adopting an unusual, but not unheard-of plot that sent its characters riding the brim of depression and uncertainty, the entire cast kept the film afloat, even in the eyes of becoming something it didn’t want to be. While the first hour of the film presented us with the charming and likable couple in Kumail and Zoe Kazan’s delightful Emily, the last hour gave us a handful of the film’s most satisfying performances. While Kumail’s traditionalist parents (Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff) put down some hilarious roadblocks in Kumail’s journey towards navigating love, it was Emily’s parents in Ray Ramano and Holly Hunter that truly stole the show. While their presence in Kumail’s life might become just as incendiary as his own parents’, Hunter and Ramano gave off some fantastic performances as they struggled to understand Kumail’s role in Emily’s dire situation.
Even as “The Big Sick” tackled a daring balance between a sweet love affair and a partially-depressing drama on the backdrop of modern-day Chicago, the film was far from perfect. Yes, while it did work to subvert the romantic comedy genre by tossing in a viable, medically-infused subplot, the film did gamble with its runtime and pacing. While the film began with a running stride as it kicked off its half-love montage, half-social commentary on cross-cultural relationships, when the plot meandered its way into the corner where Emily gets sick, it slowed down to a near crawl. Pausing briefly for an awkward first encounter between Kumail and Emily’s parents (which brought not only some tense chemistry, but also a tongue-in-cheek quip about 9/11 and Kumail’s obvious ethnicity), the last hour of the film stumbled through a number of hesitant transitions from the first hour’s lighthearted fun. Still, even as the film took some punches by pausing the hilarity for heartbreak, the enigmatic performances of its cast managed to keep the film from dragging itself into the darkness.
Overall, while it might suffer from off-beat pacing and gamble with the risk of becoming too much like other rom-coms of the decade, “The Big Sick” was a romantic drama made by and for the lovelorn people of our often-controversial realm of contemporary society. With a film that knows how to mix its political satire with its cutesy boy-meets-girl premise, and has a dynamically human cast to back it up, “The Big Sick” should make you laugh, cry, smile and most importantly, savor the people you choose to love.
‘The Big Sick’ is in theaters everywhere July 14th.