Why Judd Apatow’s “The Big Sick” is Phenomenal

With his latest movie, “The Big Sick,” Judd Apatow has absolutely nailed it. This film is the romantic comedy that we’ve been waiting for – it’s cute and charming, and also remarkably warm-hearted. Whether you are in a relationship already – or are yearning to find your soul mate – this movie is for you. The “Big Sick” is just phenomenal for so many reasons.

#1: There is an authentic, endearing relationship at the heart of “The Big Sick”

The first thing that you need to know about “The Big Sick” is that the screenplay is from the husband-wife team of Kumail Nanjani (who also stars in the movie as himself) and Emily V. Gordon. They use their personal history as the basis for this romantic comedy. It’s lighthearted at first, even hilarious at times, and then becomes much more serious and smart once the character playing Emily (Zoe Kazan) is placed into a medically-induced coma.

Without a doubt, this is the best romantic comedy in years. We’re shown the most original “meet-cute” in years (a young woman heckling a Muslim-American comic on stage), and then see all the hilarious ups and downs of their relationships. In many ways, theirs is a forbidden love – but it’s handled in such a charming and big-hearted way that we’re drawn deeper and deeper into their romantic world.

#2: “The Big Sick” is a culture-clash comedy as much as a romantic comedy

As you might expect from the outset, the tale of a young Pakistani comic trying to have a relationship with a young American girl is going to have some complications. In this case, the complications come from the very strict Muslim family of Kumail. They expect him to marry a nice Pakistani girl, and they relentlessly look for ways to set him up with such a girl.

Along the way, Kumail’s struggling comic career is mined for laughs. There’s even a joke in there about ISIS. But this is not a movie that plays the Muslim-American community solely for laughs. There is a remarkable texture and nuance here that’s hard to find in most romantic comedies. A decade ago, this might have been a movie about an Italian-American kid trying to marry a girl outside of his Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn or the Bronx.

#3: “The Big Sick” is also a generation gap movie

There are two sets of parents, of course, and it turns out that there’s a separate problem coming from the parents of Emily, played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. If Kumail’s parents don’t know much (or anything at all) about Emily, the parents of Emily may know too much. And, from the outset, they aren’t exactly happy with the idea of him marrying their daughter.

But Kumail is able to win them over with his earnestness, care and love. And for that reason, the movie is so authentic and endearing. It is true love, even if the two generations at first have a hard time finding some kind of common ground. They are struggling for a common language, and realize that what keep them together is what, at first, seems to hold them apart.

#4: “The Big Sick” does a remarkable job reinventing the romantic comedy

At least part of the praise needs to go to director Michael Showalter (best known for “Hello, My Name is Doris”), who executes Judd Apatow’s vision perfectly. Unlike most romantic comedies, which usually come in at under 1 hour 30 minutes, “The Big Sick” stretches for a full 2 hours. Such is the level of narrative and explication, but it doesn’t seem like 2 hours. This is the way romantic comedies should be. There should be plenty to talk about after watching the film, and certainly more than just, “The boy got the girl in the end.”

Other films would try to use Kumail Nanjani’s comic career as the main narrative (and laugh track) for the movie; here, it just provides helpful context. This is not your typical “struggling comic” film. In other films, the Muslim-American character would only be a 2D-cutuout; here, it’s a fully three-dimensional character. This is one of the rare films that presents Muslim-Americans as real people, and not just someone out of central casting.

By the end of the film, you will be fully invested in Kumail and his relationship, especially since all of his run-ins with his Muslim family end up becoming so humorous. There is something that cuts across culture and race here – it is timeless and universal.

Those are just some of the ways that “The Big Sick” challenges and reinvents the classic romantic comedy. Some critics have called the viewing experience similar to “reconnecting with an old friend,” and that sentiment exactly hits the feeling square on the head.

It almost seems as if we really know the characters of Kumail and Emily. All the real-life details that went into the screenplay turn this into such a funny romantic comedy. This is easily Showalter’s best work yet, and the acting by both Kumail (best known for his work in “Silicon Valley”) and Zoe Kazan is really remarkable.

#5: “The Big Sick” feels modern and relevant

In many ways, the plotline for “The Big Sick” could only happen in the modern America of the first Trump generation. The story of the Muslim-American trying to make it in the country takes on new resonance amongst the “Muslim ban.” And the comic himself is also a part-time Uber driver – perhaps the classic job that an under-employed person could have during this current zeitgeist. It all just feels so remarkable real and “now.”

And, it should be added, the film’s arrival on June 23 made it the perfect counter-programming for this summer. While everyone else was watching the big Hollywood blockbusters at the multiplex, fans of romantic comedies were checking out this tiny art house gem.

It’s no wonder, then, that “The Big Sick” has absolutely been winning over audiences ever since it first premiered at this year’s Sundance film festival. The film now has an 8.1/10.0 rating on IMDB, and a nearly perfect 97% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s just the final proof to show that Judd Apatow’s “The Big Sick” is phenomenal.

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