Film Review: The Big Sick (2017)

Release Date: January 20th, 2017 (Sundance)
Directed by: Michael Showalter
Written by: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Music by: Michael Andrews
Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Adeel Akhtar, Anupam Kher

FilmNation Entertainment, Apatow Productions, Amazon Studios, Lionsgate, 124 Minutes

Review:

I really wanted to see this film a lot sooner but I had to travel for work over the last month and then I had to catch all the movies that were coming out, as it was summer. I finally got to a week where I had a nice break in the schedule, so that I could check this out instead of dreck like The Dark Tower and Valerian.

I first discovered Kumail Nanjiani when he popped up as a waiter in an episode of Portlandia. Ever since then, I’ve been a fan of the guy. Whether seeing him in HBO’s Silicon Valley or Comedy Central’s The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail or hell… an Old Navy commercial, I am always entertained.

The Big Sick, while still a comedy, is the most serious thing I have seen Kumail Nanjiani do. That being said, he was pretty damn amazing in it. Granted, he was really playing himself and the story was about his real life situation with the woman who would eventually become his wife. There was more drama here though than a standard romantic comedy and everyone held their own.

The movie’s plot is about Kumail and Emily falling in love and the challenges that arise with Kumail being from a family of Pakistani immigrants who have very strict rules that they must adhere to. Things get disastrous for the couple but ultimately, Emily gets really sick, is put into a medically induced coma and Kumail, along with her parents, never leaves her side. All the while, Kumail is trying to make it in stand-up comedy and develops a great bond with Emily’s parents. When Emily finally awakes, she is still in the same mental place she was in when her and Kumail were on the outs.

The film is written by Kumail and his wife, Emily V. Gordon. However, Emily does not play herself. Instead, she is played by the super talented and charming Zoe Kazan. Her parents were played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. Both of them were beyond stellar and Romano was especially great. He got to expand beyond his typical comedic forte as he played a guy who tries to be funny but isn’t. Romano also has some of the best dramatic scenes in the film, which was cool to see. Weirdly, I was never a big fan of Everybody Loves Raymond but I always liked the man behind it.

Well acted, with a cast that has amazing chemistry, The Big Sick is an entertaining and moving picture. It is also quite sweet and heartwarming. I went into this knowing it had a happy ending but that didn’t detract from the emotional weight of the story. Everything about it felt genuine and real. This was something that truly came from the writers’ hearts and experiences and it was cool seeing at least one of them get to also star in it.

As much as I already liked Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick takes him to a whole new level. While he has already broken into Hollywood, this was a giant leap forward and I hope it opens even more doors for him.

TV Review: Silicon Valley (2014- )

Original Run: April 6th, 2014 – present
Created by: Mike Judge
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Cast: Thomas Middleditch, T. J. Miller, Josh Brener, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Christopher Evan Welch, Amanda Crew, Zach Woods, Matt Ross, Suzanne Cryer, Jimmy O. Yang

Judgemental Films, Altschuler Krinsky Works, Alec Berg Inc., 3 Arts Entertainment, HBO Entertainment, 28 Episodes (so far), 30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Mike Judge is mostly known for his animated shows Beavis & Butt-HeadDaria and King of the Hill but when he does live-action stuff, it is still pretty darn good. Just look at Office Space and Idiocracy for examples.

Silicon Valley is almost a spiritual successor to Office Space but with a tech industry spin. It also benefits in ways that Office Space couldn’t, as that film was confined to just 90 minutes. The episodic format and now multiple seasons of Silicon Valley gives it more wiggle room and lots of different ideas can be explored in more depth. We have time to get to know our characters more intimately and the story of their company (and rival companies) is allowed to flourish in a broader way.

The cast is literally an all-star team of talent, many of whom have been on the scene for awhile but never really had the right project to shine in a long-term sense.

The cast is led by Thomas Middleditch, who had bit roles in a lot of television shows and movies but never had much time to stand out. He is backed by T.J. Miller, who would go on to be awesome in Deadpool but also worked in Cloverfield as well as a slew of other projects. Then you have Josh Brener, who I found to be hilarious in Maron but never got to see much else from him. Kumail Nanjiani may be recognized from small roles in Portlandia, as well as some commercials, but this too, is his first real long-term project. Martin Starr, who has probably had the most success, started his career in the cult classic television show Freaks & Geeks and went on to be integral to another cult show Party Down. Starr has really found the perfect role for his personality. You also have Zach Woods, who is mostly known as the unlikable character Gabe from the later seasons of The Office. Woods’ Jared is the antithesis of Gabe however, as he is one of the most likable characters on Silicon Valley. Finally, you have Amanda Crew, who should probably be featured on the show more than she has been in the first three seasons because she is great and adds a needed feminine element to the show’s male dominated cast.

The show also boasts a good supporting cast. Matt Ross is great as the dastardly villain of the series. Jimmy O. Yang is great as the Chinese roommate of the main cast. Christopher Evan Welch was enigmatic as the bizarre Peter Gregory but he unfortunately passed away during production of the first season. Chris Diamantopoulos is perfect as the douchebaggy rich guy Russ Hanneman. One of my favorite actors in any role he plays, Stephen Tobolowsky is fantastic as a short-lived CEO of the main characters’ company. Lastly, Milana Vayntrub, best known as Lilly in those AT&T commercials, plays Starr’s girlfriend in a few episodes and I wish she was in more.

The show is stellar and it is consistent throughout its first three seasons. I’m glad to see it coming back for a fourth but the show could run its course pretty soon and hopefully it doesn’t stick around longer than it should, like most successful shows these days.

Everyone is fairly likable and the contrast in personalities is what makes the show work. The show is perfectly cast, the funny look into the tech world is executed brilliantly and the balance between its lightheartedness and more dramatic parts is handled well.

Silicon Valley is one of those shows that is a perfect storm. While it isn’t a perfect show, the scale tips much more towards positives than negatives and it is hard not to care about the characters and appreciate the talent of the actors that bring the show to life.