The Big Sick written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani and directed by Michael Showalter (Amazon Studios, Apatow Productions, FilmNation Entertainment, Story Ink, R, 120 min)

Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano.

In Consideration of Social Pressures

What will they think?

Why are social pressures so demanding of our thoughts and actions? Isn’t it odd how human beings avoid decisions with clearly pleasurable results if only because the inner life of another might disapprove?

Have you ever stopped to consider how many experiences and relationships have been lost to the hypothetical judgment of a friend or relative?

Why do we do it? Why, for all that is good and holy, does it ever matter what the monologue scrolling through the teleprompter of another?

The Power of the Crowd?

I’m no sociologist, but I’ve heard enough hints from academia to suggest the power of the crowd. Whether a job, a relationship—anything really—we act within a social context. It matters what other people think because we are in relationship with others and we want those relationships to continue. We want to be liked; we don’t want to rock the boat. For this reason, we sit in the same seat in class or the same pew in church. For this reason, we introduce only certain types of people with whom we are in committed relationships to our parents.

But sadly, behaviors outside the norm remain in the shadows. When personal desire conflicts with societal expectations, it can be incredibly difficult to break the mold and live contrary to the scripts from which society expects us to act. So, many live closeted lives (in more ways than just sexually).

While watching The Big Sick, these notions of conformity and how they inhibit joy and happiness sprint to the forefront.

An Autobiographical Love Story

Autobiographical, The Big Sick illustrates the love story of Kumail Nanjiani (Kumail Nanjiani) and Emily (Zoe Kazan). An immigrant, Kumail lives in Chicago, driving for Uber while he tries to make it as a stand-up comedian.

Yet, Kumail lives two lives. In one life he operates in the night life as a comedian, with American friends, doing American things, and consuming American culture.

The Big Sick

Amazon Studios

But in his home life, Kumail maintains appearances as a devout Muslim for his family. At family dinner, Pakistani women continue to “drop by” the suburban cul-de-sac for an impromptu meet-cute and the hopeful beginning of an arranged marriage.

When Kumail meets Emily after a stand-up routine and the pair begins dating, inevitable conflict looms because of the strict rules associated with Kumail’s upbringing.

Here, Kumail sits between the pull of his heart and the societal/familial expectations for conformity.

Only when Emily goes to the emergency room and the hospital places her in a medically induced coma does Kumail realize a choice must be made.

So What’s the Answer?

The Big Sick is an expertly crafted dramedy. Kumail’s stand-up chops mean consistent humor throughout the plot and the underlying motifs where the desires of Kumail fall in direct conflict with the expectation of his parents and the culture he would need to reject to get what he wants.

What makes The Big Sick so compelling is the realization that there’s no right answer. Some will say follow your heart, although how can society structure if we lose all our rules. Others may argue for the rigidity. How else will we know right and wrong? The heart can be a fickle mistress. Rules can liberate the individual to think about more important things. So just watch The Big Sick and see where you stand.

Verdict: 4 out of 5



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