The Big Sick is a warm-hearted, overlong, often funny, and tonefully odd dramedy—which is to say it’s like almost all Judd Apatow productions. Kumail Nanjiani plays a version of himself, a struggling, awkward Pakistani comedian in Chicago. His loving but conservative family sets up meetings with Pakistani women in the hope of an arranged marriage. Kumail instead meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) and falls in love, but breaks up with her because he doesn’t want to be ostracized from his family. Emily then gets very ill, and the rest of the movie is mostly Kumail hanging with Emily’s parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) in the hospital.
It’s an odd setup for a romantic comedy, and it works mainly because of Romano’s and Hunter’s performances. Romano has blossomed beautifully into a deadpan boomer dad. He is easily the best part of the corny HBO series Vinyl, and in The Big Sick he’s the source of the biggest laughs, while Hunter reminds you that she’s simply one of the greats. Nanjiani’s parents (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) are also excellent, providing a window into the Muslim immigrant experience. The romance between Kumail and Emily is less compelling, simply because the actors are less magnetic. This creates an interesting tenor to the film—namely the idea that people get more interesting as they age.
The film’s meandering pace stalls out in act three, and like all Apatow movies, it feels about 20 minutes too long. Nevertheless, it’s a charming and laid-back affair that subtly and easily weaves stories of immigrant life and lengthy marriages over a quirky romance. It’s not a masterpiece, but another entry into the Apatow canon that will probably be fondly regarded. B+