A couple of things you need to know about The Big Sick: first, despite its odd title, it is one of the best films of the year so far, outstripped only by the genre-busting Get Out, and second, the "sick" is really big. It's the kind that changes some lives forever and often cuts others too short.
Here's the final diagnosis: The Big Sick is one of the best comedies in a generation. The dialogue is so uncompromising, the characters so recognizable and the situations so grounded in reality that it feels authentic, squeezing into the ever-tightening margins that keep a good romantic comedy from becoming mawkish.
The Big Sick will launch Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and Emily Gordon to the A-list. They're the real-life married couple and screenwriters who turned their own story into a film. You may already know Nanjiani from his appearances on The Colbert Report, Key & Peele, Inside Amy Schumer and Portlandia or from his role as Dinesh Chugtai, the programmer who takes embarrassment to a whole new level on the HBO show Silicon Valley, which just wrapped its fourth season and is destined to receive a boatload of Emmy nods when nominations are revealed Thursday, July 13. The Big Sick is a major star-maker for Nanjiani and we should expect to see a lot more of him in big screen comedies and dramas. Meanwhile, co-screenwriter Gordon has opted to remain behind the scenes of her own story. Emily is portrayed on-camera by the wonderful Zoe Kazan. Even when Emily is leveled by a terrifying illness which lands her in an induced coma and on life-support, we adore her because Kazan has brought so much joy to the character in earlier scenes. As a result, we always consider Emily to be on equal footing with Nanjiani even though, for obvious reasons, her dialogue is non-existent for much of the second half of the film.
We've seen the "tears-of-a-clown" genre before in other big screen romantic comedies—think Punchline, Top Five or even Annie Hall—but The Big Sick is more akin to the new standard that Louis C.K. set in his amazing FX series Louie. So it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that Judd Apatow's fingerprints can also be found on The Big Sick. He's the film's producer, and as in Freaks and Geeks, Girls, Knocked Up and Trainwreck, Apatow has a genius knack for unleashing authentic talent.
"It's very rare when someone approaches you with a story that is this unique or a story that you haven't heard yet, while also being very heartfelt and hilarious," Apatow told Variety just as The Big Sick rolled out to theaters in New York and Los Angeles in June. Ever since its debut at this year's Sundance Festival, the big buzz over The Big Sick has been steadily building; now it's time for its unveiling nationwide.
Kudos to The Flicks in Boise for landing the film for opening day Friday, July 14. Somehow, watching The Big Sick in a giant cineplex just wouldn't feel right. Arthouse theater audiences should embrace this gem of a film, and strong word-of-mouth should keep it at The Flicks through a good portion of the summer.