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Movie Review: “The Big Sick”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

The Big Sick

Theatrical Release: 7/14/2017

Theatrical Release: 7/14/2017


Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is an up-and-coming stand-up comedian. He is struggling to make ends meet, working as an Uber driver while not performing or preparing for one of his shows. At one of his shows he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), and the two immediately hit it off. They have a great time, so great in fact, that she ends up going home with him. Later that night, she orders an Uber to go home, and Kumail ends up being that driver.

The two have an exciting new relationship, but Kumail must find a way to deal with his family, who strongly believe in arranged marriage. The arranged marriage issue adds tension to the relationship, but it soon does not matter when Emily becomes sick. Doctors do not know how to treat her condition, and she ultimately winds up in a coma. At the hospital, Kumail meets Emily’s parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano). There is no way of knowing if Emily’s condition will improve, but the three go on an emotional journey as they try wait out Emily’s coma together.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Kumail & Emily (+8pts)

Stand-up Friends (-3pts)

Emily’s Parents (+8pts)

The Fight (-4pts)

Arranged Marriage (+6pts)

Attitude Adjustment (-4pts)


Pro: Kumail & Emily (+8pts)

Based heavily on real people, and being the focal point of this story, audiences have to buy into the relationship between these two characters. Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan did a great job of bringing these real characters to the screen. Audiences will definitely be rooting for this relationship and a lot of that was due to the two lead actors. We saw these two characters meet, we saw their relationship grow, and we saw that relationship face tragedy.

The filmmakers did a fantastic job of beginning this relationship in a way that will have audiences rooting for them to be together. Unfortunately, I thought the filmmakers seemed to struggle, a bit, in trying to bring a few areas of conflict to the screen. I will get into those points later, but the foundation of this relationship was very strong and their story together was very compelling. This was a heart-wrenching true story of how Kumail Nanjiani met the woman he would go on to marry, and it was very interesting to see it told. In order for this movie to work, audiences had to buy the relationship, and I thought Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan did with it.


Con: Stand-up Friends (-3pts)

In addition to the main characters and their families, the filmmakers also introduced Kumail’s stand-up friends. I liked seeing these comedians and they were definitely funny, but I felt they crowded the movie a bit too much. The movie had a tragic true-story premise, but it was complex and would have worked even better with more focus on the characters more relevant to that tragic story. While the characters were funny, I could not help but think they were unnecessary.

The movie already had plenty of comedic characters. The main character was Kumail Nanjiani after all. There were also comedic moments and characters in Kumail’s family, as well as the great Ray Romano. These characters worked comedically, but they were also integral to the story, as they were the family members of the main characters. With that in mind, I thought Kumail's stand-up friends added little to the story, were not needed comedically, and ultimately wasted screen-time.


Pro: Emily’s Parents (+8pts)

I really liked this story. One can only imagine how awkward it must be to meet their significant other’s parents for the first time at the waiting area of a hospital, where said significant other is currently a coma. That is hardly the circumstance in which anyone would want to meet their potential in-laws, but that was what happened here. Emily's parents had never met Kumail before, yet he was the one of the first faces they saw during one of the most tragic, hopeless times of their lives. That was the circumstance in which Kumail had to meet Emily's parents, and it made for awkward tension that was hard to look away from, in a good way.

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Holly Hunter and Ray Romano played Emily’s parents wonderfully. They captured their characters' helplessness and desperation, and they captured the depression that parents would go through after having to endure such a tragedy. It was fascinating to see how Kumail slowly bonded with these two characters in different ways. This story had a ton of tragedy and heart, and it was so fascinating to see it all unfold.


Con: The Fight (-4pts)

Now I know this was based on a true story, and I do not know if this really happened as it played out in the movie, but I felt as though the fight came a little out of nowhere. I had a few issues with this scene. First, I thought that Emily’s reaction was overly dramatic. She did not listen to Kumail’s fairly reasonable explanation and took the whole fight to an unnecessary level. Second, I did not think Kumail had any reason to keep the secret that he did. While I did not think either character was justified in feeling the way that they did, the third and worst issue that I had with this fight was the irrelevance of it.

Whether it really happened or not, I did not think the conflict was necessary. It was clearly meant to add tension and to disrupt the comfort that audiences might have had with respect to the main characters' relationship. However, knowing the premise for this movie, Emily's sickness was going to do that anyway. In other romantic stories, fights and tension are a good way to make the audience feel like things may not work out. In this story, Emily's sickness was going to do that really effectively, so I thought the fight was pretty unnecessary, especially considering how forced and unnatural it felt.


Pro: Arranged Marriage (+6pts)

Going into the movie, I obviously knew its premise. Kumail falls for a girl who gets sick, then he bonds with her parents while hoping for her to recover. What I did not expect was how the movie would address arranged marriage in the modern world. We had Kumail, whose family believed very strongly in arranged marriage, and we had Emily, who knew very little about the concept.

Arranged marriage served a couple purposes for this story. First, it provided comedy with Kumail’s family pressuring him into marrying girls they set him up with, girls that Kumail was not at all interested in. These scenes, as well as the characters that made up Kumail’s family, gave a lot of funny moments that provided some comedic break from the heavy drama in the rest of the story. Arranged marriage also gave conflict for the main character. Would he choose Emily and face being exiled from his family or would he pick the easier route and marry someone of his family’s choosing? It was a story that the filmmakers were able to inject some comedy into, but it was also a natural love story in which you will want to see the main character stand up to his family to be with the woman he loved.


Con: Attitude Adjustment (-4pts)

This issue was kind of related to the fight, but it was significantly separated in the story so I thought it deserved its own section in this review. A lot of time passed between the fight and the resolution to it, but the resolution seemed just as unjustified as the fight itself. This was kind of a bummer, because the filmmakers did such a wonderful job of setting up these characters in all areas other than ones related to this darn fight. Emily had a change in her attitude, and it felt completely unjustified.

I thought it was interesting to see two characters at very different points in the same fight. One was very much removed from it, while the other still had it fresh on their mind. Unfortunately, by not giving the character development to support Emily’s attitude adjustment, the final resolution to the fight will felt anti-climactic and undeserved. If the filmmakers wanted this impactful, then they probably should have taken screentime away from Kumail's friends and given it to the development of Emily's perspective of the fight.

Grading Scale






























Grade: B+ (86pts)

This movie had a few issues, but I ultimately enjoyed it. Being based on a true story, this movie has the very unique premise of being about a new romance in which the girl became very sick, and the guy had to meet her parents for the first time in the waiting area of the hospital. It was an interesting premise, but I thought it worked really well due to the great performances by Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano. Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan had great chemistry that will have audiences rooting for the two. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano gave great dramatic performances that captured the pain and helplessness that any parent would experience in their situation.

I really enjoyed this story, but the movie was not perfect. The concept of arranged marriage provided conflict for the main character and it provided a lot of comedy as well. Unfortunately, the filmmakers over-did the comedy by squeezing in three of Kumail’s stand-up comedian friends. These characters were severely unnecessary and they used up precious screentime that could have been spent resolving the rest of the movie’s issues. Kumail and Emily had a fight that was completely out of random and unnecessary, then Emily had a change of heart that felt completely unjustified. Fortunately, these were relatively minor issues. The Big Sick was a tragic drama, but it also had plenty of comedy, and a ton of heart.

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