Streaming Now: The Big Sick (2017) - Reviewed

The romantic comedy schematic has been replicated and reinvented to a point that there are no surprises left. Traditionally, comedy is a challenging genre because it enshrouds its artistic representations within pastiche and border pushing gags that either repel audiences or entice them with risqué compositions. This often leads to films overstepping into offensive parody or shying away from uncomfortable truths in an effort appease sensibilities. Michael Showalter's latest feature defies expectations; not by rewriting the framework, but through the sheer humanity of its presentation. Using refreshingly normal characters and situations to comment on the humor inherent to the struggles of everyday life, The Big Sick is a welcomed reminder of the power of love and laughter. 

Kumail is a struggling Pakistani-American comedian who begins a relationship with a Caucasian woman named Emily that becomes strained due to Kumail's reactions to his familial expectations. When Emily becomes afflicted with a life-threatening infection, Kumail becomes closer with her bereft family and realizes the importance of commitment and family. Kumail Junjiani and his wife Emily Gordon wrote the script, based on their relationship. Junjiani and Zoe Kazan star as the central couple, supported by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily's complicated parents. It is the central interplay, particularly between Romano, Hunter, and Junjiani that is the film's most potent element. There is nothing that transpires that is groundbreaking, but it is the heartfelt journey of maturation that is of import. Junjiani is a man without focus, drifting through Uber runs and nightclubs in an attempt to find his identity, separate from his traditional family. When he comes into contact with Emily's parents, the truth of his situation becomes clear, signaling the unavoidable reality that no situation is ideal, but the magic lies in accepting; whole heartedly, the goodness that is inherent whenever love at risk. 

Ray Romano gives a brilliant, standout turn as Emily's father. A wounded, yet serious man whose crackerjack advice bears kernels of lifelong wisdom. His scenes with Junjiani are outstanding, both in their immediately organic presentation and in the lasting feeling of reverence they impart on the audience. These are real people, perfectly flawed and insatiably hopeful, even the face of the unthinkable. Brian Burgoyne's steady cinematography frames the entire ordeal in such a manner that the Windy City becomes any American town. While the subtext of Kumail's Muslim upbringing is essential to most of the comedic elements, the idea that this is a story of love in a place of freedom is ever-present among some outright hilarious jokes about 9/11 paranoia, conservative parenting, and the love/hate bonds of brotherhood. 

Available now for digital rental, The Big Sick is one of the best comedies of 2017. While it refuses to break any new ground with respect to formula, it beautifully expounds on what is possible within the genre when the characters are brought to near perfect life by a talented cast that has fully grasped the importance of its material. A powerful remedy for the stay at home date night quandary, The Big Sick mixes laughter and tears in a cheerful combination that can't help but to win the viewer's heart.

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-Kyle Jonathan