Film Review – “The Big Sick” – Michael Showalter

I work unpardoning phrases in my brow, and then I see Kumail and Emily’s gentle, expectant faces, and I simply cannot write them down. I feel somehow they will sense it if I do; she will wake in the middle of the night in their apartment somewhere in Brooklyn from a lurch of sickness in her stomach, like a baby kicking, though she is not pregnant; he will gather her up in his arms tenderly like heavy drapes; but till dawn now, she’s awake.
But that which they will sleep through, the civil dregs that I will allow myself to transcribe, would form a noticeably incomplete picture of this picture. Yet my unnatural trepidation, a factor in itself, is telling. I notice myself tiptoeing, as if I carry a quiet, brim-full glass, as I present this movie to you. Any censure I might feel obliged to raise regarding “The Big Sick” (hitherto “The BS”) must be as under-handed as possible.
Still, the least rumbustious thing I can say, whilst maintaining a sense of history is… It’s good for its kind. “It’s kind” is the Romantic Comedy – a taxonomy created specially to keep Adam Sandler away from Woody Allen. The phrase itself supposes that fantastic love – which is tragic – can be brought to earth, and have its likeness commodified – which is trivial – so that those without love might visit its estate like prospective buyers and wonder at its vistas, without the terror of its reality – which, of course, it can’t. The pedestrian cinematic experience, I suppose, but one designed for the most anxious and lonesome of clientele. For those with love, the film will be neither familiar nor true. Such as it is, a ‘Rom-Com’ is an impossible life-style and one that should not be encouraged. (She stirs.)
There is much tragedy in “The BS” – of which a coma is the least trouble – but all of it is sold very cheaply. The worry is, I suppose, that if a Romantic Comedy was excellent, and was truly animated by love and truly afraid of death, it would be too unbearably sad to bear. The very particular, utterly fictional sentiment of this type of film is illustrated, in painfully diagrammatic simplicity, in the term itself: a ‘Rom-Com’ must first propose and then maintain an equilibrium; like two people equally fat, or in this case, equally frail, on a see-saw. Both and neither; a compromised affair.
Through no fault of its own, “The BS” is incapable of a real pulse or a heaving chest, but finer than most, it feigns it; the Rom-Com is to live what a plush bear is to its ferocious figure-sake. Hence the hasty chorus of qualification: ‘it’s good for its kind!’ – one cannot write it off. If you see something in the Romantic Comedy that I do not, “The BS” is a sure winner.

Owen Neve

Comedy, Romance | USA, 2017 | 15 | 28th July 2017 (UK) |Studiocanal UK | Dir.Michael Showalter | Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher

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