DVD/Stream of the Week: THE BIG SICK

THE BIG SICK
THE BIG SICK

The Must See romantic comedy The Big Sick is the closest thing to a perfect movie this summer. Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh in Silicon Valley) plays a Pakistani-American stand-up comedian whose parents insist on arranging a marriage with a Muslim Pakistani woman. He falls for Emily (Zoe Kazan), who is neither Muslim nor Pakistani. Kumail is too cowardly to make a choice between Emily and his family, so he keeps delaying the decision by lying to both. At a critical moment in his relationship with Emily, she suddenly and mysteriously becomes very ill and is placed in a medically induced coma. Kumail waits out the coma in the hospital with Emily’s out-of-town parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), whom he is meeting for the first time. The parents have relationship issues of their own.

How can Kumail and Emily’s parents weather the stress of an unconscious loved one on a respirator? Will Emily’s parents accept Kumail? Will Emily’s parents stay together themselves? Will Kumail’s parents kick him out of the family? Will Emily wake up, and what will she think of Kumail if/when she does?

The coma may seem contrived, so it’s important that you know that THIS REALLY HAPPENED to Kumail Nankiani’s real-life wife Emily V. Gordon. Nanjiani and Gordon co-wrote this screenplay, with support from producer Judd Apatow.

The Big Sick is hilarious (and not just for a coma movie). The humor comes from the characters, and how they must individually deal with life’s struggles. Kumail is cowardly delaying a choice between Emily and his own family by lying to both; we know that’s it’s only a matter of time before somebody finds out, and the clock is ticking. The Big Sick is flawlessly directed by comedy writer and television director Michael Showalter.

Zoe Kazan, the very talented screenwriter (Ruby Sparks) and actress, makes us fall in love with Emily along with Kumail. Kazan nails the heartbreaking scene when she finds out that Kumail hasn’t been straight with her. It’s a pretty remarkable performance, especially given that she’s in a coma for most of the movie.

The casting of Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily parents is inspired. Each of them brings unusual depth and texture to their characters, the tightly wound mom and the conflict-avoidant dad. Each has at least one of the Big Scenes that bring Oscar nominations

The Big Sick is the best American movie of the first half of 2017 and the best romantic comedy in years. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll fall in love. The Big Sick can be rented in DVD from Netflix and Redbox and can be streamed from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

THE BIG SICK: best American movie of the year so far

THE BIG SICK
THE BIG SICK

The Must See romantic comedy The Big Sick is the closest thing to a perfect movie this summer.  Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh in Silicon Valley) plays a Pakistani-American stand-up comedian whose parents insist on arranging a marriage with a Muslim Pakistani woman. He falls for Emily (Zoe Kazan), who is neither Muslim nor Pakistani. Kumail is too cowardly to make a choice between Emily and his family, so he keeps delaying the decision by lying to both. At a critical moment in his relationship with Emily, she suddenly and mysteriously becomes very ill and is placed in a medically induced coma.   Kumail waits out the coma in the hospital with Emily’s out-of-town parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), whom he is meeting for the first time. The parents have relationship issues of their own.

How can Kumail and Emily’s parents weather the stress of an unconscious loved one on a respirator?  Will Emily’s parents accept Kumail?  Will Emily’s parents stay together themselves?  Will Kumail’s parents kick him out of the family?  Will Emily wake up, and what will she think of Kumail if/when she does?

The coma may seem contrived, so it’s important that you know that THIS REALLY HAPPENED to Kumail Nankiani’s real-life wife Emily V. Gordon.  Nanjiani and Gordon co-wrote this screenplay, with support from producer Judd Apatow.

The Big Sick is hilarious (and not just for a coma movie).  The humor comes from the characters, and how they must individually deal with life’s struggles.  Kumail is cowardly delaying a choice between Emily and his own family by lying to both; we know that’s it’s only a matter of time before somebody finds out, and the clock is ticking.  The Big Sick is flawlessly directed by comedy writer and television director Michael Showalter.

Zoe Kazan, the very talented screenwriter (Ruby Sparks) and actress, makes us fall in love with Emily along with Kumail.  Kazan nails the heartbreaking scene when she finds out that Kumail hasn’t been straight with her.  It’s a pretty remarkable performance, especially given that she’s in a coma for most of the movie.

The casting of Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily parents is inspired.  Each of them brings unusual depth and texture to their characters, the tightly wound mom and the conflict-avoidant dad.  Each has at least one of the Big Scenes that bring Oscar nominations

The Big Sick is the best American movie of the year so far and the best romantic comedy in years. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll fall in love.

2012 in the Movies: breakthroughs

Macy Gray in THE PAPERBOY

After seeing Ruby Sparks and Celeste and Jesse Forever, I can hardly wait for the next screenplays by actress-writers Zoe Kazan and Rashida Jones.  Those were two of the smartest and most inventive screenplays of the year, and revived the thought-to-be-brain dead romantic comedy genre.

Popular singer Macy Gray turned in an astonishing performance in The Paperboy.  Like Mariah Carey in Precious, Gray has proved that she can act.

Also in the The Paperboy and in Liberal Arts, Zac Efron proved that he is more than just the pretty boy of High School Musical.  I am looking forward to his dramatic turn in Ramin Bahrani’s  (Goodbye Solo, Chop Shop, Man Push Cart) At Any Price.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead turned in what should be a star-making performance in Smashed.  Let’s see if she gets a chance in a big movie.

DVD of the Week: Ruby Sparks

The inventive Ruby Sparks is about romance and it’s very, very funny, but it transcends the genre of romantic comedy.  A shy writer who has produced a great novel at an early age is now drifting,  his writing is blocked and he has isolated himself into a lonely existence.  He imagines his perfect love object, and he can suddenly write in torrents about her until…she becomes real.  Yes, suddenly he has a real life girlfriend of his own design.

This is everyone’s fantasy of a perfect partner – but what are the limits of a partner that you have designed yourself?  Because he can tweak her behavior by rewriting it, this brings up the adage “Be careful what you ask for”.  When he is threatened by her independence, he changes her personality on the page and she becomes unattractively clinging and needy.  Can his realized fantasy make him happy?

Paul Dano is outstanding as the writer and screenwriter Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of Elia Kazan) dazzles as his creation.   (Off screen, Kazan and Dano are a couple.)  Chris Messina is dead on perfect as the writer’s brother, and the film benefits from an especially strong cast:  Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Steve Coogan, Aasif Mandvi and Elliot Gould.  Ruby Sparks is ably directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the co-directors of another exceptional indie comedy, Little Miss Sunshine.

The biggest star in Ruby Sparks is Zoe Kazan’s ingenious screenplay.  It’s funny without being silly, profound without being pretentious, bright without being precious.  Every moment is authentic.  It’s clear that Kazan is a major talent as a screenwriter.

Ruby Sparks: be careful what you ask for

The inventive Ruby Sparks is about romance and it’s very, very funny, but it transcends the genre of romantic comedy.  A shy writer who has produced a great novel at an early age is now drifting,  his writing is blocked and he has isolated himself into a lonely existence.  He imagines his perfect love object, and he can suddenly write in torrents about her until…she becomes real.  Yes, suddenly he has a real life girlfriend of his own design.

This is everyone’s fantasy of a perfect partner – but what are the limits of a partner that you have designed yourself?  Because he can tweak her behavior by rewriting it, this brings up the adage “Be careful what you ask for”.  When he is threatened by her independence, he changes her personality on the page and she becomes unattractively clinging and needy.  Can his realized fantasy make him happy?

Paul Dano is outstanding as the writer and screenwriter Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of Elia Kazan) dazzles as his creation.   (Off screen, Kazan and Dano are a couple.)  Chris Messina is dead on perfect as the writer’s brother, and the film benefits from an especially strong cast:  Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Steve Coogan, Aasif Mandvi and Elliot Gould.  Ruby Sparks is ably directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the co-directors of another exceptional indie comedy, Little Miss Sunshine.

The biggest star in Ruby Sparks is Zoe Kazan’s ingenious screenplay.  It’s funny without being silly, profound without being pretentious, bright without being precious.  Every moment is authentic.  It’s clear that Kazan is a major talent as a screenwriter.