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The Big Sick (2017)

Lionsgate
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/19/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/7/2017

It's easy to mix genres in movies. You can put comedy into horror, or you can put drama into a western. Blending different types of story styles is the definition of simplicity. Now, making those combinations work is incredibly difficult. Just one false move and the genres can either clash and it won't work or the stories can be so disparate that it will feel like two different movies. One of the hardest stunts to pull of is blending comedy and tragedy. If you can effortlessly make the audience go from laughing to crying, then you have truly earned your money. This is where The Big Sick comes in.

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a stand-up comic working in Chicago. Following a performance, he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), and the two share a romantic evening together. However, Emily states that due to her schedule with graduate school, she doesn't have time to date. But, that ultimatum quickly evaporates and the two become inseparable. This actually creates issues for Kumail, as he comes from a strict Muslim family and his mother is determined to place him in a pre-arranged marriage. Therefore, he doesn't tell his parents or brother about Emily. Their relationship takes a very sudden turn when Emily falls into a coma. Suddenly, Kumail is spending time at the hospital with Emily's parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano). Is it worth staying around for someone who may not wake up?

The Big Sick is based on the true story of how Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon became a couple. They really met after one of his shows, she really fell ill and was placed in a medically-induced coma, and he was really forced to bond with her parents. The two collaborated on the script for this film, working with Producer Judd Apatow and Director Michael Showalter. But, being so close to the material doesn't guarantee that the story will be relatable, and, as noted above, how in the hell do you make a comedy when one of the characters is in a coma?

Let's get one thing straight from the outset -- The Big Sick is not perfect. But, it does a really good job of overcoming some seemingly impossible obstacles. The big one lies right there in the title -- Emily falls ill. Not only does this lead to a plotline which is decidedly unfunny, but it means that a character who had been at the center of the story is no longer present. The movie suddenly shifts focus to Kumial's relationship with Emily's parents. Which leads us to the second obstacle. Things aren't going well between Kumail and Emily when she gets sick, and then Kumail must contend with two people who he doesn't know, but who clearly don't like him. Therefore, not everyone here is always likeable, so we are challenged to stick with them at some points. Similarly, there is a subplot concerning Kumail's colleagues and their struggles in their careers -- again, this isn't always easy to watch.

There are a lot of roadblocks here and The Big Sick makes overcoming them look easy. How? The main thing is, and this is going to sound incredibly simple, the movie is full of heart. Again, the characters here aren't always likeable, but they are honest and earnest, and even in a short amount of time, we get to know them. And because we are on this journey with them, when Emily takes the detour into her sickness, we are right there with them, feeling everything. Nanjiani and Showalter's comedic skills come into play as the movie maintains its funny edge when things go dark. This is that rare film which can move from a very depressing scene into a movie which is laugh out loud funny. You will have tears in your eyes from laughing and crying.

Yes, there are parts of The Big Sick which don't deviate too far from the standard "boy meets girl" story or a cliched "struggling ______ hopes for their big break" tale, but the elements of the script which strive to be different set the film apart. From the unique, almost unbelievable true story to the great comic timing of Ray Romano, The Big Sick is a romantic comedy which shows that a film in this genre can be serious and intelligent, while still being quite humorous. Don't miss this one.

The Big Sick even manages to nail a pimp joke during a serious moment on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 34 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look great here, most notably greens and reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good and the depth works very well, most notably in the waiting room scenes. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The comedy club sequences provide a nice amount of surround sound, as the laughter of the crowd comes in from the rear speakers. The music sounds fine and never drowns out the actors.

The Big Sick Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Kumail Nanjiani, Producer Barry Mendel, Co-Writer Emily V. Gordon, and Director Michael Showalter. "A Personal Journey: The Making of The Big Sick" (15 minutes) has Nanjiani and Gordon discussing their story's trip to the screen. We also hear from Producer Judd Apatow who talks about the efforts which were made to keep the tone of the film even. Nanjiani and Gordon break down the reality of the film in "The Real Story" (7 minutes). "2017 SXSW Film Festival Panel" (12 minute) has Nanjiani, Gordon, Apatow, and Mendel answering questions about the movie. "The Big Sick: The Other Stuff" (4 minutes) is a reel of funny deleted scenes. The Disc offers eight DELETED SCENES which run about 10 minutes. There are some funny moments here. "The Bigger Sick: Stick Around for More Laughs" (10 minutes) brings us clips from a stand-up tour which was done to support the film.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long