If nothing else, I appreciate producer Judd Apatow for his ability to create leading men and women from faces that are more common in everyday life than on the big screen – Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, Melissa McCarthy, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, and now Kumail Nanjiani. I don’t know his involvement in the movies he didn’t direct, but it doesn’t matter, they all brandish his seal of approval as producer. His latest, The Big Sick, features Nanjiani (also a co-writer, with his wife Emily Gordon) as himself, maybe loosely but still, as a comedian in Chicago who falls for a therapist, Emily (Zoe Kazan).
Kumail vacillates between falling for Emily and keeping his Muslim family happy by entertaining the notion of an arranged marriage. A freak accident finds Kumail thrust into family drama with Emily’s parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano). The movie is hilarious, but also has a gigantic heart and earns every sentimental moment. Expertly directed by Michael Showalter, thankfully tempering his ridiculous tendencies (Wet Hot American Summer).
Nanjiani, so good on Silicon Valley, is a true leading man here, going to full comedic extreme and shifting into heartfelt drama while never losing the weight of picture that rests mostly on his shoulders. Kazan, also tremendous, might come on board as what appears to be a manic pixie dream girl, but the character has more agency than that stereotype and also balances the comedy and drama expertly. Romano has never been better, and he shares a nice chemistry with the always wonderful Hunter. Zenobia Shroff as Kumail’s mother was another favorite, finding the humanity in a character that could come off negatively in lesser hands.
It’s an Apatow movie, so it does feel a tad overlong, but at least there was no slapsticky, chase ending. But really, I loved everything about this movie and I hope it means a bigger profile for Nanjiani, and a greater willingness to explore a wider spectrum of characters that what the film industry (especially major releases) usually offers.
My grade – A