Film Review: The Big Sick (USA, 2017) Makes The Case For Big-Screen Romance

It sometimes feels like today’s romantic-comedy films have become a little of out of sync with the rest of the modern blockbuster landscapes. You just don’t see as many being made these days. There’s an easy argument to be made that the audience for these kinds of stories have largely migrated to TV shows like You’re The Worst and others. Why watch a two hour romantic comedy when you could spends seasons getting to know the characters?

However, The Big Sick, co-produced by Judd Apatow and Amazon, stands out amongst this summer’s string of cinematic universes for more than just this reason. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it quite reconciles this larger dysfunction that has seen Hollywood-backed romantic comedies fall to wayside. But it does make a compelling case that this particular kind of romantic comedy still deserves the big screen treatment.

Without over explaining it and killing it like a good joke, The Big Sick covers a lot of ground. It’s characters move, change, fight and grow in a way that feels authentic when it needs to and exaggerated whenever it can afford to play it for laughs. Throughout, It tiptoes around the cliches of what a love story should be and finds the time to explore concepts like the modern immigrant experience, navigating culture divides, dealing with both soft and hard Islamophobia.

Above all, though, The Big Sick remains a deeply personal story. Especially when it comes to the tone and style harnessed by director Michael Showalter. Kumail Nanjiani himself acts as the centerpoint for the film, deftly manages to find a balance between genuine comedic talent anchored by convincing emotional charisma. He bounces off Zoe Kazan’s sparky Emily in a way that feels very natural and the film does well to give both of them equal agency in their relationship.

The rest of the cast is no less talented. As you’d expect Holly Hunter is exceptional as Emily’s mother Beth, Ray Romano rounds out the couple with the gruff, but kind Terry. The cast of Kumail’s own family is no less impressive. Lively performances from Anupam Kher, Adeel Akhtar and Zenobia Shroff quickly work their way into your heart and sell you on a family that, while not perfect, is still a functional and loving one.

Even Kumail’s fellow comedians feel like thoughtful inclusions and assertive figures in their own right, rather the just scenery for the main event. Bo Burnham was a highlight for me but, admittedly I am a massive fan of his work, so your mileage may vary.  

Within the broader Judd Apatow catalogue, The Big Sick feels much closer to his TV efforts than his films. It’s funny, sad, romantic and filled with a quiet sense of modernity that allows confidently navigate the tropes of romantic comedies without succumbing to cliche. It’s a delicate act to pull off, let alone to do so while keeping you in stitches.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Big Sick releases in Australian cinemas on the 3rd of August.