The Big Sick: Leading the way to the future of comedy

Independent Cinema, Reviews

Awards Season is a complicated time of the year, and as much as we love it, we couldn’t do it all year round. And as a matter of fact, we all have mixed feelings about it, as it is impossible to come to an agreement on whether nominations and awards are fair, especially in an industry where publicity and studio power seem to have more weight than actual talent. With Oscar nominations just a few days away, it is a good time to remember one of this year’s biggest snubs: The Big Sick.

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Comedies, especially romantic comedies with summer releases, are not the kind of movies that receive praise during Awards Season – except for the Best Comedy or Musical categories at the Golden Globes, which, for some unexpected reason, decided to snub The Big Sick. But leaving labels aside, we have to understand that The Big Sick is much more than a romantic comedy. The Big Sick, which was considered an Oscar contender until mid-October and grossed over 55 million dollars with a production budget of 5 million, goes beyond the “boy meets girl” storyline, as it tackles relatable, socially relevant topics in a “realistic” setting.

Based on the writers’ relationship – Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, who also plays the leading character – The Big Sick deals with the cultural differences of an interracial couple, which turn their lives upside down after one of them becomes ill. Just by this logline you can tell this is not about the all American white boy falling in love with the all American white girl and their conflict being their inability to realize their love for each other or a third person getting in between (or any of the other 615276351 possible combinations for a cliché romcom). In fact, these elements could perfectly be part of of a decent drama, and yet Gordon and Nanjiani turn their personal experience in what has been called one of the most personal, well-written, witty and overall funny movies of the season.

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The film is full of relatable moments that create a stronger bond with the audience than most comedies that fall for the typical clichés – how many people in their 20’s are able to afford a huge apartment in New York – in spite of a cultural subplot that we may not have lived firsthand: from Kumail’s day job as an Uber driver, to his annoying roommate, to the way a modern relationship evolves (yes, I know, every relationship is different, but it is refreshing to see our generation somehow reflected in the movies).

But the most important subject tackled in the movie, which is also what makes it more than a romcom, is the cultural shock between the United States and Pakistan. Kumail was born in Pakistan but moved to the US as a child, and like so many immigrant children, he does not feel Pakistani. And yet his family still embraces their culture, which obviously causes the major problem: Kumail is expected to be promised into an arranged marriage to a Pakistani woman, which makes his relationship with Emily impossible or at least unlikely, if he wants to keep his traditional family satisfied. Religion is at the center of the movie, but the writers make it funny without being disrespectful or repeating the same stereotypes comedies use time and time again.

On the other hand, Emily, a graduate student from North Carolina, lives a completely different life, especially when it comes to her relationship with her parents: she doesn’t have secrets with them and doesn’t have to keep a double life in order to remain part of the family.

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All the lead performances are incredible : Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Ray Romano and, above all, Holly Hunter – who seemed like a sure bet in the Best Supporting Actress category – are able to create approachable, tridimensional characters that go beyond the screen. Like the rest of the picture, they simply feel relatable.

After being labeled as one of the most interesting romantic comedies of the decade, it seems surprising that The Big Sick was left out of one of the major awards show of the season, the Golden Globes, which makes us wonder if there will be a spot at the Oscars for this unconventional indie comedy. Perhaps its Best Performance by a Cast nomination at the Screen Actors Guild Award – where Oscar frontrunners such as The Shape of water, Call Me by Your Name or The Post were left out – is a sign. The answer, next Tuesday.

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