‘Big Sick’ Schools Hollywood on RomCom 101

Maybe the best way to revive the modern rom-com is to go straight to the source.

In the case of this year’s surprise hit “The Big Sick” that meant retelling a real love story. It’s an approach that generates the sort of original laughs you rarely see at the movies.

The Big Sick [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital]” arrives on home video without fully justifying the hype. We’re just starved for a smart, satisfying romcom, and “The Big Sick” comes closer to that than any film in recent memory.

And that golden Judd Apatow touch is so prevalent you can practically see him on the edges of the frame.

The Big Sick – Official US Trailer | Amazon Studios

Comic actor Kumail Nanjiani plays … Kumail, a struggling stand-up who takes umbrage with a cute heckler one night. She’s Emily (Zoe Kazan), a grad student intrigued by Kumail’s soft-spoken humor.

It’s not very funny humor, but she doesn’t seem to care. They hook up and deny in unison they want anything more than that. And you know what happens next, right?

She gets sick. The life-threatening variety.

Already “The Big Sick” isn’t like most screen romances. The interracial couple is the starter’s pistol, no doubt. The warm, witty dialogue is another sign we’re not in KateHudsonVille.


The obstacles in the couple’s way differ in other ways, too. Kumail is from a deeply religious Pakistani clan. Arranged marriages are the norm. Outsiders aren’t welcome. But, as Woody Allen famously said, the “heart wants what it wants.” What if that means getting banished from the family?

Apatow gets a producer credit here, but virtually every element in “The Big Sick” feels like an Apatow joint.

  • The tossed off lines
  • The behind-the-scenes machinations of the comedy world
  • The grossout moments that are actually sweet once your stomach settles down

The key players here aren’t just Nanjiani and Kazan, both as endearing as required. It’s Emily’s parents, played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. They don’t know what to make of their daughter’s new beau. The trio rally to Emily’s side, stepping on each other’s toes in the process.

That’s where the second love story begins.

Their connection yields one hopelessly clunky moment that feels taken from a SJW playbook. Otherwise, their bond is just as endearing as the main love story.

Hunter transcends the fiercely protective mama template. She’s savvy and sure of herself, but with a big enough heart to admit she might not have all the answers. It’s the kind of performance Oscar voters drool over, and for good reason.

As warm and honest as “The Big Sick” is, the screenplay teeters on caricature when it comes to the Pakistani characters. Their broad moments feel out of place within the confines of an often gritty story, as if the filmmakers didn’t trust audiences to accept a more nuanced take on Muslim mores.

The Big Sick [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital]” includes “A Personal Journey: The Making of ‘The Big Sick.'”

“I knew I hadn’t fully grappled with it yet,” Nanjiani says of the near-death experience his wife/co-screenwriter endured. “You don’t wanna wait so long so that the feelings go away.”

Nanjiani and Apatow break down the creative process in a way that won’t surprise the latter’s fan base. Still, it’s a solid “making of” presentation that avoids the chummy posing in other Blu-ray packages.

You also get deleted scenes, a SXSW panel and “The Real Story,” which fills in every blank you could possibly have in about this sweet off-screen couple.

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