Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Some movies make it through the festival rounds, find a distributor, and hit it big.

They are called sleeper hits or big surprises or revelations. They make us think while finding a common denominator that everyone can relate to.

I picked up one of these types of movies, not knowing if I would like it or not.

The Big Sick starring Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazen is described as a romantic comedies of sorts.

big-sickThe story line is about a Pakistani stand-up comic and Uber driver who meets an American grad student one night at one of his shows. They sort of hit it off, decide not to date, and then begin to do exactly that. Meanwhile his mother is constantly trying to fix him up with Pakistani women so that he can marry and have a traditional family.

The problem is he has fallen in love with Emily, who is definitely not Pakistani. He puts off having her meet his family until she breaks up with him. Once faced with the end of their relationship, it gets worse. Much worse. Suddenly Kumail must figure life out also getting to know her parents as Emily is in a coma.

In case you have not figured it out, this not a movie for little kids. We have sexual situations, swearing, and scenes dealing with huge illness and family dynamics that are not always happy. Even contextually, this is not a movie little kids are going to want to watch. I would guess since there are no car chases or explosions a few big kids will not be interested either.

But don’t let that stop you. People in my house were surprised that they actually liked it because this seemed to be more of a chick flick. You have an unlikely couple falling in love, facing family differences, and being challenged. What keeps this from being a soupy mess is the heart and challenges faced beyond the big illness displayed by actors Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.

Big sick 2One scene that I especially loved was Kumail getting challenged by a Pakistani woman, who could be a good match for him, for not being honest with her. Both characters are leading lives that are outside of the definitions of their family and culture, both are searching for meaning within and beyond those constraints. But she is demanding something even more elusive. It is both painful honest and stunningly accurate.

What I love is that we are never hit with the frying pan of knowledge. This movie allows us to figure things out. It doesn’t move in the direction of most romantic comedies with obvious montages and giddy simplicity. Like most great romantic comedies, it explores a different issue beyond the love plot line. In this case, why one moves to a different country and then expects to have all of the old customs.

This movie has seen some awards come its way and I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes some nominations and awards at Oscar time.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.