By LINDSEY BAHR
That two people could overcome centuries-old cultural obstacles, the perils of modern dating and a critical illness and end up together is a great story. That those two people also managed to adapt their own great story into a great movie is a miracle.
It’s the wonder of “The Big Sick ,” the must-see romantic comedy of the year. Sweet-natured, funny and genuine, you’re not likely to have a more pleasant time at the cinema this summer.
At the center is Kumail Nanjiani, the deft comedian who audiences might know from HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” He actually uses his full, real name in the film, which he co-wrote with his wife, Emily Gordon and based on their wild courtship. Emily has ceded her part to an actress, Zoe Kazan, who continues her very persuasive campaign to be the rom-com dream girl for those who fancy themselves better than rom-coms.
Kumail is a struggling stand-up comedian who pays the rent for his awful Chicago apartment by driving for Uber. When he’s not on the stage, or in the car, he’s at home with his family in the suburbs. They’re Pakistani and Muslim and have all had arranged marriages and expect Kumail to do the same. He’s managed to live a bit of a double life for a while — dating who he wants while also holding up the pretense of being a good Pakistani son. But everything changes when he meets Emily, the white grad student who he falls for and then loses when she realizes that he’s been hiding her from his family.
To be fair, they would literally disown him if he chose Emily over the scores of Pakistani ladies that “just drop by” their family dinners like clockwork, headshot and bio in hand. So Emily and Kumail break up. They have to. It’s a standard rom-com beat and obstacle. But then something happens: Kumail gets the call that Emily has been hospitalized, and the movie pivots into something entirely different and infinitely richer than most in the genre.
Suddenly he’s the one making the call…