The Big Sick brings something new and intimate to the table, making it a must see film of 2017.
It seems like such a bold statement to make as it is only July, but this year has been really bad for comedies so far. With poor attempts such as Snatched and CHiPS to name a few, it feels like even the most mediocre one could be the funniest film of the year. Thankfully, Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick is not only the best comedy of the year so far, but it’s also one of the best in recent memory. Starring Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and co-written by him and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, it revolves around the start of their relationship as she was sent into a coma and he was dealing with his family’s acceptance of him dating a white woman. This could’ve easily been overly manipulative and sappy, or too focused on the comedic angle, but thanks to an extremely talented cast, a smart script and a softer take in the director’s vision, The Big Sick is not only flat out hilarious, but also intimate, as it adds a lot of humanity to the subject matter.
The Big Sick truly shines thanks to the sharp and fascinating script. Nanjiani and Gordon do a great job at tackling the subjects of stand-up comedy, culture, grief, illness, coming of age and love while never veering away from the core conflict. They also do a great job at balancing comedy and drama without overbearing us with either. The characters are all very well rounded and relatable, the dialogue feels organic, and the story is told in such a personal way. Sure, some of the dialogue was probably improvised, after all it was produced by Judd Apatow, but it’s really hard to tell because it all feels so genuine. Showalter’s direction really helps bring the script to life as he handles the subject matter with such intimate grace. He goes for a more naturalistic approach instead of playing up either tone to ridiculous extremes, making us believe in and relate to the situation as it unfolds. Nanjiani and Gordon tell their story incredibly well with such sharp wit and intelligence, while Showalter does a great job at translating it to screen without making it feel disingenuous.
The cast also plays a huge part in the film’s success, as everyone is giving their A-game throughout the entire film. From comedic scene stealers such as Bo Burnham to emotionally layered performances such as Holly Hunter’s, everybody elevates an already intimate screenplay to something that feels so real. Nanjiani does an excellent job leading the film, and him and Zoe Kazan have amazing on-screen chemistry together, leading us to care about their relationship as well as any and every direction it can possibly go. However, despite an outstanding variety of talent, the finest performance in the film comes from Ray Romano as Emily’s father. Not only is his comedic timing completely on point, but he also does some really powerful work when the scene asks for it. If any performance in this film can accurately describe the brilliant tonal balance of the overall film, it would be Romano’s. He adds so much nuance in each tonal shift that it feels not only natural, but also incredibly powerful and human, making it one of the best performances of the year so far. While Romano is the stand out, the rest of the cast does amazing work that more than honors the material they’ve been given.
The technical aspects are relatively solid. For the most part, the cinematography by Brian Burgoyne adds to the naturalistic feel of the film. It greatly suffers at one point as the camera runs with Kumail to Emily’s hospital room for the first time. The rest of the film looks so smooth and even, so the shaky camera work feels completely out of place and does a disservice to an otherwise really good moment. The editing by Robert Nassau is also really solid; Scenes never feel too long and the film is paced and flows really well. The biggest offender is Michael Andrews’ score. It’s not featured all that much, but when it is, it feels blandly quirky and indie, serving only as forgettable background noise. If the score was either more interesting or just non-existent, the film would work even better than it does now.
In a year that has so far been riddled with bad comedies, The Big Sick comes out as the rare exception. It’s incredibly well written with solid direction to compliment it. The performances are also great, especially by Romano. The biggest faults of the film are some bad camera work in one scene and the bland score that just exists instead of playing a stronger part overall. It doesn’t get a full release until the middle of the month, but if it’s playing near you this weekend, you’ll be doing yourself a favour by going out to see it.
(Feature Image: Amazon Studios/Lionsgate)