Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Things To Do

Kumail Nanjiani's 'The Big Sick' is the cure to cookie cutter rom-coms

 

INDIE FLICKS: THE BIG SICK

Kumail Nanjiani is known for HBO's Silicon Valley, but he'll be remembered for living a truly original romance then co-writing a movie about it and playing himself in The Big Sick (R). You will love Nanjiani and this movie.

The spoiler is right there in the opening credits. Nanjiani co-wrote The Big Sick with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, so obviously they married after she survives the critical illness in the movie. Emily is played by the beautifully plain Zoe Kazan, whip smart and just as funny as Nanjiani, a standup comedian drawing on his Pakistani culture for material.

They meet cute but wittier, more mysterious than usual. If these were big stars, we'd know they're made for each other, but they aren't so we don't. Director Michael Showalter could do an entire movie with just these two, a funnier Before Sunrise, and that would be enough.

But Kumail's parents can't know about Emily, and are urging him to marry a Pakistani woman as tradition dictates. His mother (Zenobia Shroff) arranges sudden dinner guests, always single Muslims toting resumes. The Big Sick opens new rom-com avenues through sheer diversity and our similarities.

Showalter could just make My Big Fat Pakistani Wedding and call it a day. But there's so much more to Nanjiani and Gordon's life together and perilously apart. She falls seriously ill with an issue doctors can't identify right after the couple breaks up. Kumail signs papers to have Emily placed in a medically induced coma or else she'll die.

That's when The Big Sick brings in a pair of brilliant ringers as Emily's parents, Oscar winner Holly Hunter and an extraordinary Ray Romano. She's fiercely protective, he's more laid-back. These characters are a movie unto themselves, a mismatch coming to light after decades together. Their initial distaste for Kumail softens believably, at times bitterly, but always with uncommon honesty.

This movie does so many things right, from Kumail's irrepressible comedy instincts at inappropriate moments to his Pakistani family dynamics. The Big Sick depicts standup comedy culture with the accuracy of Mike Birbiglia's films and medical uncertainty with darkly humorous restraint. This movie doesn't play any of its themes cheaply.

The Big Sick is a spirited indie rebuttal to cookie-cutter rom-coms with photogenic stars and Love Boat mechanics. With a little luck it could become this generation's When Harry Met Sally, redefining love in the movies. If Hollywood wants to imitate this one until the thrill wears off, I won't mind. A

NOW IN THEATERS: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

Leave it to an impetuous teenage superhero to open his movie in the middle of the week.

In Spider-Man: Homecoming (PG-13), Tom Holland slips into the mask as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, looking and behaving more like the intended teenager than Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield managed in previous incarnations. Holland's geeky confidence is source of sharp high school comedy in-between battling Vulture (Michael Keaton), sort of a junkyard Birdman.

A Grade B+ review was published earlier. Here' a sampling:

"Spider-Man: Homecoming does the improbable, successfully rebooting a reboot of a trilogy that did the job well enough only a decade ago. It's a movie that could be unnecessary but isn't. In fact, Spider-Man: Homecoming turns the web slinger into the funniest superhero not named Deadpool, an eagerly awkward wanna-be Avenger."

Click here to read the entire review.

 

In theaters: our Top 5

Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:

1 The Big Sick: A charmer redefining what romantic comedy means.

2 Baby Driver: The most fun you'll have at the movies this weekend. (Shown above.)

3 Spider-Man: Homecoming: There's a new web slinger in town (Tom Holland) and he's geek-cool.

4 The Beguiled: Sofia Coppola offers a wicked remake of a '70s cult film.

5 Despicable Me 3: Fewer Minions, twice the Steve Carell means more laughs.

UPCOMING RELEASES

(Dates subject to change)

July 14: War for the Planet of the Apes

July 21: Dunkirk; Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets; Girls Trip

July 28: The Emoji Movie; Atomic Blonde; An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Aug. 4: The Dark Tower; Detroit


MORE THINGS TO DO

MUSIC: Our Top Concert Picks

DINING: Where to Eat This Week

FOLLOW: Things To Do Updates on Facebook

MORE EVENTS: Search By Date, Price and Neighborhood

 
Comments
Yelp search results reflect racist stereotype that Asian restaurants serve cat and dog

Yelp search results reflect racist stereotype that Asian restaurants serve cat and dog

A strange thing happened when typing "dog menu" into the restaurant ratings website and app Yelp. It automatically generated suggested searches. There were dog massage, hot dogs, pet groomers. Also: "dog meat." But it got more disturbing. Take Yelp...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Performances, songwriting get ‘Waitress’ from serviceable to filling — plus, there’s actually pie

Performances, songwriting get ‘Waitress’ from serviceable to filling — plus, there’s actually pie

TAMPA — A lonely and changeable sky illuminates the top of the stage through most of Waitress, running this week at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. The neon lettering of Joe’s Diner reflects days and nights that don’t differ en...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Top things to do this week in Tampa Bay: Jeff Dunham, Victor Wooten and Sinbad perform jazz

Top things to do this week in Tampa Bay: Jeff Dunham, Victor Wooten and Sinbad perform jazz

PUPPET MASTER: Jeff DunhamCelebrated ventriloquist Jeff Dunham is no dummy. The record-breaking comedy superstar sells out arenas around the world, bringing along his ill-behaved puppets including grouchy Walter, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, redneck Bu...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

NOW OPEN: TEX-MEX CHAIN CHUY’SThe Austin, Texas-based Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opened its first Tampa restaurant on Tuesday, giving away free Chuy’s for two for a year to the first 50 customers. I know, we missed it, it’s a bummer, but we can still visit...
Updated: 2 hours ago
We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

When Tampa International Airport debuted in 1971, each terminal had a newsstand and a snack bar, called something kicky like Snack Bar.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Fleetwood Mac coming to Amalie Arena in Tampa

Fleetwood Mac coming to Amalie Arena in Tampa

Before Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham came to Ruth Eckerd Hall last fall, Buckingham said Fleetwood Mac was mapping out a tour for 2018 and beyond. And he fully expected to be a part of it."Fleetwood Mac is absolutely a dysfunctional family, ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
This week’s best concerts: Flo Rida, Queens of the Stone Age, Bay 2 Beach Festival and more

This week’s best concerts: Flo Rida, Queens of the Stone Age, Bay 2 Beach Festival and more

ROCK ROYALTY: Queens of the Stone AgeWhen Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme got in trouble recently for kicking a photographer at a show, local fans might have seen it coming. During a gig here in 2014, a fan got up on stage and tried to gree...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Jobsite cues up ‘1984,’ ‘50 Shades’ parody’s Danielle Trzcinski premieres ‘Little Black Dress’

Jobsite cues up ‘1984,’ ‘50 Shades’ parody’s Danielle Trzcinski premieres ‘Little Black Dress’

MINISTRY OF JOBSITE: 1984When selecting an adaptation for George Orwell’s 1984 (there have been a few of them), Jobsite Theater had to strike the most controversial one off the list. That version by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan ran for 125 perfor...
Updated: 2 hours ago
B-52s’ 40th anniversary tour includes Tampa stop

B-52s’ 40th anniversary tour includes Tampa stop

The B-52s are celebrating the band's 40th anniversary with a summer tour alongside Boy Culture and Culture Club as well as Tom Bailey of The Thompson Twins. The tour includes a June 30 stop at Tampa's USF Sun Dome.That's a pretty strong bill for anyt...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Meet the man who wrote ‘Conjunction Junction’ and other ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ songs that stick in your head

Meet the man who wrote ‘Conjunction Junction’ and other ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ songs that stick in your head

Anyone whose childhood began in or after the early 1970s probably knows at least one or two Schoolhouse Rock! songs, the ones that taught children multiplication tables, civics lessons and basic grammar. In fact, reading that sentence probably has yo...
Updated: 5 hours ago