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Big Sick, The


Stars: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher, David Alan Grier, Linda Emond, Zenobia Shroff

Director: Michael Showalter

This true-life cross-cultural romance laced with both comedy and drama has considerable charm and contains some treasurable exchanges. But it does drag on and on, especially in the second half, as a basically 90-minute tale balloons close to the two-hour mark.

It's the story of Kumail Nanjiani (who, for some reason, decided to play himself) who, to his Pakistani family's disgust, has become a stand-up comedian in a Chicago bar.

Heckled one night by sparky blonde Emily (Kazan), he takes her home and beds her, but their subsequent liaison bodes badly for his own relationships with his family, especially his mother (Shroff) who, intent on an arranged marriage, provides him with a non-stop stream of prospective suitable partners.

When Emily learns the truth, she walks out, but then falls seriously ill, bringing her parents, Beth and Terry (Hunter, Romano) hurrying in from North Carolina. They - and Kumail - are rather unfortunately shunted into a 'bereaved' waiting room, where a slogan on the wall reads 'Grief is love's unwillingness to let go.'

Beth in particular wants no part of Kumail, but a night out at his club brings them closer together.

Sensitive souls should be aware that there's a lot of swearing in this one, but also some brilliantly-written dialogue (by Kumail and the real Emily), often for Kumail's parents.

'We heard a train had been derailed,' his mother chides him, after he's late as usual for the family dinner. 'Mom,' he protests, 'nobody was killed there.' His mother sniffs. 'Did they look under the train?' she asks.

Nanjiani is okay as himself, while Kazan is rather strident as Emily. In any case, the film is roundly stolen from both of them by Hunter and Romano, each very good as the warring but basically loving parents.

(Not only is the title a downer, but it's not even clear what it means).

David Quinlan

USA 2017. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Technicolor/Color by Color Collective.
119 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 22 Jul 2017