Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani really lived The Big Sick.
And the writer and stand-up comic/actor had enough smarts – and guts – to take their how’d-we-meet story to paper together and allow producer Judd Apatow and director Michael Showalter put the touches on it for the big screen.
This is an interesting, intriguing, important tale of two cultures. OK, maybe it’s not that important, but it is surely a romantic comedy that dares to go outside the box in many ways.
In this movie form, Nanjiani is a Pakistani working the stand-up scene in Chicago, surrounded by fellow comics of various talent levels, all striving to be noticed by a talent scout picking the lineup for the Montreal Festival. Oh, yeah, he’s a Uber driver, too, when he’s not going over to his parent’s nice house for family dinners, telling fibs about studying to get into law school and meeting the Pakistani girl of the week brought to the after-meal table by this mother. Yes, she’s intent on pushing her son into the old country’s tradition of arranged marriage.
He’s not into it. Even before pretty Emily catches his eye in the crowd with an in-set whoop one night, a spark-filled conversation at the bar, and quick trip to the air mattress in his small apartment.
These opposites attract despite themselves.
But he can’t bring himself to reveal this attachment to the family. He knows they’d cut all connections if he’d pursue what was in his heart. She discovers this failing and stomps off. And gets very sick, emergency room sick, her roommates call him and the doctor’s tell him to sign the paper to allow them to but her into an induced-coma sick.
Yes, this is where it gets more interesting, because her parents rush up from North Carolina. Played wonderfully by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, they’re ready to judge him because Emily has filled them in plenty about his lack of step-up. Then they all develop their own ties in intricate layers throughout the serious ordeal.
Nanjiani is fantastic playing himself, serious and sarcastic and smart and light-hearted as he grows, too.
Zoe Kazan shines as Emily, equally smart and serious and sarcastic, but light-hearted from the start and more serious as she evolves.
His family plays big in small roles. The other comics add their important touches.
It all works.
At the 12:15 showing among a sprinkling of couples in a big theater at the Regal Cinemas chain at Syracuse mega dining, entertainment and shopping complex Destiny USA, my dear wife Karen and I were rooting for love every step of the way.