Saturday, July 8, 2017

I Saw THE BIG SICK

I'm of that generation that mentioned reviews from Siskel & Ebert or critics of The New York Times and other respected publications when making their plans to see a new movie.  Nowadays, I hear folks mention the percentage of favor a movie got online from Rotten Tomatoes.  I prefer to stick with critics who have a track record, critics whom I respect.  When Justin Chang of The Los Angeles Times said lovely things on KPCC radio's FilmWeek show on a Friday edition of the station's AirTalk show, I was immediately interested.  When I read the equally lovely review from Joanna Langfield of www.TheMovieMinute.com, my interest was doubled.  Last month, I was watching Woody Allen's ANNIE HALL on cable and wondered why no one seemed capable of making a good romantic comedy anymore.  I paid to see THE BIG SICK last week.  That ticket was worth every single penny.  THE BIG SICK is a romantic comedy that made me feel very, very good.  I laughed, I cried, I loved it.
Lead actor and co-writer Kumail Nanjiani, a regular on HBO's Silicon Valley sitcom, and director Michael Showalter prove that the romantic comedy for grown-ups is not a lost art form.  Nanjiani based the screenplay on his real-life experiences.  He plays a Pakistani stand-up comedian who's finding his own life and career as a young adult American.  He's veered of the life that his traditional Pakistani Muslim parents had planned for him.  His family doesn't know that he's seeing a white American girl he met in a comedy club after his set.  There's a culture clash.  I could relate to it.  Not that I'm Pakistani, but my mother had planned for me to marry a black Catholic woman and be a best-selling novelist like Hemingway.  I became a TV performer and fell in love with a white Southern Baptist male.  I totally understood the expectations, the conflicts, the heartbreaks -- and the humor.

Some folks may carp, "Why couldn't he fall for a brown girl?"  Well, think of the "opposites attract" culture and/or class dynamic at play in romantic comedies.  A Jewish Woody Allen neurotic fell for a shiksa Diane Keaton character in ANNIE HALL and in MANHATTAN.  He fell for shiksa siblings in HANNAH AND HER SISTERS.  Look at Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in WHEN HARRY MET SALLY or Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl in KNOCKED UP.  Look at wealthy Tom Hanks and out-of-work local bookstore owner Meg Ryan in YOU'VE GOT MAIL. All different characters in each film but of the same color.  Plus, as I wrote earlier, THE BIG SICK is mostly autobiographical.

As you can probably tell from the film's title, an illness enters the picture.  One that requires the sick person be hospitalized.  I could relate to that too.  Here's a trailer from THE BIG SICK.  Zoe Kazan will charm you as Emily, the stricken girlfriend.  Ray Romano and Holly Hunter play Emily's parents.
If you loved Holly Hunter in BROADCAST NEWS back in the late 80s, you will love her in THE BIG SICK.  Do not be surprised if THE BIG SICK brings Holly Hunter an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.  Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are terrific together.  And they're not a pair of wacky comedy movie parents like in MEET THE PARENTS or MEET THE FOCKERS.  The movie doesn't give you that "They could've easily taken 15 minutes out for a tighter, better film" like FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL and THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT did.  Emily's parents have covered some emotional mileage in their relationship.  Their marriage has depth and gravity.  Romano and Hunter are reason enough to see THE BIG SICK.  This was wonderful casting.
Kumail Nanjiani is handsome and soulful.  Like the film, he is funny and tender.  I hope Hollywood has more leading man movie opportunities for him.  Rated R, THE BIG SICK is a great date movie.  Justin Chang and Joanna Langfield were right.  I wanted to give this movie a big, warm hug -- like it's a dear friend I've not seen in quite some time.  THE BIG SICK is the best new romantic comedy I've seen in quite some time.

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