The Big Sick broke my heart. A true(ish) story of two souls overcoming the threat family abandonment and a medically induced coma to find true love, this movie is stocked with gut wrenching dramatic material. I was certain I’d love it. Added bonus, The Big Sick is also a comedy directed by the hilarious guy who wrote The Baxter, They Came Together and Wet Hot American Summer. Get out of here. And the movie stars Kumail Nanjiani, one of the funniest working actors today? Come on! This is going to be perfect.
I didn’t like The Big Sick.
The good news is I didn’t dislike The Big Sick. I just didn’t like it. I’m right in the middle. Maybe it’s a case of hype exceeding reality. Maybe it’s not a good movie. But the most likely explanation is that The Big Sick struck an uncomfortable nerve that caused me to react irrationally. It wouldn’t be the first film. The world went bananas for The Jungle Book while I thought it was one of the worst movies of the year. I mean, how do people not see that Mowgli is the villain?!
But like I said, The Big Sick will finish the year nowhere near my least favorite movies. It’s fine. In fact, The Big Sick displays many attributes that I thoroughly enjoyed. The cast is delightful and a joy to watch. The film is also very funny. In fact, humor is The Big Sick’s best quality. I vocally chuckled out load (a rare feat for me) numerous times. But this is also where the movie starts to veer toward the negative.
While The Big Sick is filled with great jokes, too many jokes live completely outside of the story and mess with the pacing. The comedy club scenes are the worst offenders. Despite showcasing some very funny comedians, a lot of the banter serves no purpose other than to tell a random joke.
It’s funny, but each non sequitur is yanking on the emergency brake. Luckily the majority of the comedy is naturally derived from the main plot and there is plenty of it to maintain momentum and clear the speed bumps.
Unfortunately there was one major speed bump I was unable to clear: I didn’t buy into the relationship between Kumail and Emily. That’s a pretty big issue for a romantic comedy. If I don’t believe the two characters belong together, I’m not going to be emotionally invested in the outcome. I mean, still wanted Emily to wake up from her coma. But I didn’t care if Kumail stuck around. Truth be told, I was kind of hoping he’d leave.
Kumail and Emily do have chemistry early in the movie and it makes sense that they would want to date each other. But semi-serious dating was as far as I felt their relationship should go. The first argument breaks them up. The first one. One. They got into one argument and they broke up. Everything prior to the breakup is just cutesy, new couple stuff. I didn’t feel anything substantial enough for me to believe Kumail would want to try again after Emily’s coma.
Now, I’d completely understand if Kumail wanted to take a pass as Emily’s mom (played by Holly Hunter). Emily’s mom is wonderful. She and Kumail develop a much deeper bond than Emily and Kumail. Wouldn’t that be a movie. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl date. Boy and girl break up. Girl falls into coma. Boy meets girl’s mother. Girl wakes up from coma with new step-dad.
I was taken aback by the reaction Emily has towards Kumail’s familial struggle. Consider this: Kumail’s family is a traditional Pakistani family. Kumail’s family is threatening to disown Kumail if he does not agree to an arranged marriage and just generally be a more all-around Muslim. Emily gets mad at Kumail because Kumail doesn’t want to be disowned by his family. Emily doesn’t want to discuss the fine intricacies of Kumail feeling like he’s living a double life between American and Pakistani. Nah, she just wants to break up.
Just a few scenes prior, Emily admits to Kumail (after having dated for a long while) that she was previously married and got a divorce from her first husband because she saw a young couple making out. She missed that feeling. So she got a divorce. Those are some major red flags and Kumail just takes them in stride. Yet when Kumail raises a red flag, Emily loses her shit. Kumail deserves better than Emily (movie Emily, not his real life wife Emily).
I found Kumail and myself to be quite similar. Except that Kumail is a hundred times more handsome, a thousand times funnier, a million times hairier and infinitely more Pakistani. But other than that we’re practically clones.
I grew up in a Mormon family but rejected the church when I was a teenager. It’s not an easy decision. Mormon’s take Mormonism very seriously. Leaving the church was seen as a personal attack on my mother, father and siblings. I was told over and over how I am a disappointment.
I did not want to lose my family. But I was not going to be a Mormon. And now I’ve got a whole lot of resentment and a constant feeling of isolation.
So when Emily is so flippant towards Kumail’s fear of losing his family, I felt rather flippant toward her. And again, I speak only of the movie version of Emily. I bet the real life Emily is a wonderful human being. This critique is only in regards to fictional Emily.
The Big Sick has everything it needs to be an incredible movie and I understand why people love it. Between Kumail’s family, Emily’s coma and Emily’s parents, the emotional material is dense. But all of the weight hinged on a few important scenes that, in my opinion, failed.
The scenes of Kumail and Emily dating are too brief. Their relationship is presented at surface level. Their breakup escalates unnaturally. Everything show in the movie is just a play by play of how the relationship went without delving into what the relationship is. Why does Kumail want to be with Emily? All I learned was why Emily didn’t want to be with Kumail.
Maybe The Big Sick should have cut out some of Bo Burnham’s comedy club one liners and given more time to scenes that actually mattered. This is supposed to be a movie about Kumail and Emily. Get out of here, Bo.
I know I’m in the minority. The Big Sick has almost universal praise and I’m the fly in the ointment. But if you ask my family, that’s the role I was born to play.