Thursday, July 13, 2017

Never Trust Good Reviews...Er, Well, You Can This Time

Well, you could have knocked me over with an empty box of Raisinets.   

"The Big Sick" had all the earmarks of a movie that I would detest.   Glowing reviews from film critics, which I have learned not to trust in the hardest of ways.  The subject is one of diversity, which I think Hollywood is using as a meat tenderizer on the foreheads of movie goers.   And, lastly, I see the dreaded and overrated Judd Apatow as one of the producers.   I expect a film loaded with stupidity and a numbing message from the most elitist bleeding heart in Tinseltown.

Imagine my surprise, shock, and awe when I actually liked "The Big Sick."  I really, really, really liked "The Big Sick," Sally Field.  This is one of those romcoms (romantic comedy, for you non-insiders) that doesn't incur feelings of guilt as you leave the theater.  It's a trifle long, but, then again, this is the historically-averse-to-film-editing Apatow.  I'll bet you can't even find a pair of scissors in his house.

Indeed, the main reason I decided to take a gamble on this was the inclusion of Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, actors I really enjoy, in supporting roles.   While they certainly delivered as I had hoped and expected, there are many other things to enjoy in this movie.

From the get go, the dialogue in "The Big Sick" had a very organic feel and, as I learned from my post-film research, there's a good reason for it.  The writers, including the film star Kumail Nanjiani along with his real life partner Emily, actually lived the plot.  It came off very real because it was...well...very close to real.

Kumail essentially plays himself.   A Pakistani stand-up comic (yes, I just wrote that) living in Chicago with his very Muslim family.  They are overbearing to the Nth degree, insisting that he pray to Allah in the basement and also accept their selections for his arranged marriage.  But Kumail wants none of this.  And, in a "meet cute" scene during one of his Improv sets, he meets Emily who would never ever qualify to be one of those selected wives.  Their romance begins but is soon upended when Emily discovers that he hasn't told his family that she is White.

Recently dumped, Kumail is despondent.   Out of the blue, he gets a call that Emily is in the hospital with an illness that requires a medically induced coma. He is pulled to be by her side.   Enter Emily's parents from Caucasian Town, North Carolina, played by Romano and Hunter.  They light up the proceedings immediately upon arrival with performances that consider "supporting actor Oscar nomination worthy."  

Hunter has the bitchy Southern act down pat.   And Romano is actually playing a bit of an extension of his sitcom role but with lots, lots more heart.  Their scenes as they deal with Kumail's presence as part of Emily's "immediate family" are hilarious and heartbreaking and everything in between.  There is one exchange where Ray and Kumail discuss 9/11 that is one of the funniest bits of dialogue I have seen in the movies ever.  Together, they come together as Emily's health starts to get worse.

Naturally, I've already told you that the real Emily (played wonderfully on screen by Zoe Kazan) is one of the screen writers so you probably can guess how this turns out.   I'm not sure if the entire coma episode really happened as it is portrayed here, but it works as entertainment nonetheless.  

Meanwhile, Kumail's struggles with his own family run parallel to his burgeoning relationship with Emily's parents.  In one scene near the end, Kumail challenges his parents in a way that I wanted to applaud.  He asks why they even brought him to America if they wanted to hold onto their old values. Kumail clearly wants to assimilate as an American and this is a message you rarely don't get in 2017.  Bravo.

As I have mentioned, some editing could have really tightened "The Big Sick." Yes, the last 20 minutes or so meander a little bit and, hence, I am knocking my grade down by a half star. Nevertheless, you should welcome "The Big Sick" as the big movie surprise of the summer.

Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, I really hope the Academy does not forget your performances come nomination time.

LEN'S RATING:  Three-and-a-half stars.

Dinner last night:  Leftover sausage and peppers.

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