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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Big Sick is based on writer/star Kumail Nanjiani's real-life love story with his wife, Emily. It's a romantic comedy, but it's also a thoughtful, mature drama about relationships, commitment, cultural traditions, and learning to be honest with yourself and others. Expect lots of strong language (including "f--k," "s--t," and more), as well as sometimes-crass sexual references and situations; characters hook up/make out, and sex is implied (but there's no nudity). Characters also talk about infidelity. While there's no violence, scenes of a key character who gets very ill could be upsetting, and there are several scenes in which characters argue and/or get loud with each other. It's implied that a comedy club manager does cocaine, and many characters drink (a couple of times to excess).
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What's the story?
In THE BIG SICK, Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani, who co-wrote the film based on his own life) is a stand-up comic/Uber driver living in Chicago. He's pretty comfortable in his routines -- which include living in fraternity-like squalor, joking around with his fellow aspiring comedians, and humoring his mother, Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff), at weekly family dinners, as she keeps trying to set him up with marriageable Pakistani girls. Then he falls for the decidedly non-Pakistani Emily (Zoe Kazan), a grad student who swears she doesn't want a relationship. But she keeps going out with Kumail anyway ... at least until he refuses to commit to their relationship because of what his traditional family might think. Kumail's post-breakup blues are shattered when Emily suddenly ends up gravely ill in the hospital. Even after her parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), arrive on the scene, Kumail can't bring himself to leave Emily's side. As he builds a tentative relationship with Beth and Terry, he starts to understand that he might need to make some changes.
Is it any good?
Director Michael Showalter's engaging, thoughtful film is most easily billed as a romantic comedy, but it has far more depth and dimension than your standard rom-com. For one thing, Emily is comatose for about half the movie, which means Kumail's primary relationships shift to the new, often-shaky ones he's forming with Beth and Terry and the longstanding but sometimes almost as shaky ones he has with his own parents. Having to step up on his own, with Emily out of the picture, is what finally helps Kumail grow up and move forward in his life.
It's also what yields some of The Big Sick's funniest and most touching scenes. While early interactions between Kumail and Emily and Kumail and his comic buddies are funny and cute, they're nothing we haven't seen in indie romantic comedies before. But the scenes of Kumail getting to know Beth and Terry feel fresh and different; strangers thrown together by circumstance, they bond over everything from stress eating to talking about the one thing they do have in common: Emily. Only real life could have produced a story with these kinds of twists, turns, and odd bedfellows -- thankfully, because The Big Sick is based on Kumail and Emily's actual relationship, we know that it will all turn out all right in the end, with a lot of laughs and significant insights along the way.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Big Sick depicts cultural traditions -- specifically those from Nanjiani's Pakistani heritage. Is it OK to question the "rules"? What consequences does Kumail face for doing so? What would you have done in his place?
Is The Big Sick a romantic comedy? A family drama? How can you tell? Do movies have to fit into specific genres?
How does the movie portray sex and drinking? What role does the former play in the characters' lives (is it loving? consequential?)? And are there any consequences for the latter? Why is that important?
How accurate do you think the film is to what happened in Nanjiani's real life? Why might filmmakers (in this case, Nanjiani included) choose to alter the facts in a movie based on a true story?
- In theaters: June 23, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: September 19, 2017
- Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano
- Director: Michael Showalter
- Studios: Lionsgate, Amazon Studios
- Genre: Comedy
- Character Strengths: Integrity
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language including some sexual references
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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