I was surprised that the romantic comedy/medical drama "The Big Sick" drew nearly a full house Sunday afternoon at the Lefont Sandy Springs, the shabby/homey theater plopped behind a nondescript suburban shopping mall just outside Atlanta's I-285 perimeter.
The young folks must have been at the new "Spiderman." No one among "The Big Sick" crowd appeared younger than 45.
if they were hungry for an intelligent, well-written and well-acted movie, they went away satisfied. With an autobiographical script by Pakistani comedian/actor Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon and directed by Michaael Showalter, "The Big Sick" deftly balances several familiar Hollywood tropes: Romantic comedy, medical drama, making-it-in-show-business saga, troubled middle-age marriage melodrama, ethnic struggles in America. The influence of producer Judd Apatow is shown in a few gags based on bodily functions and an overall sentimentality.
Nanjiani portrays himself while Zoe Kazin, Eliza's granddaughter, gives a winsome performance as Emily. The film recounts the true-life story of how Kumail violated the Islamic customs of his Pakistani family by falling for a white American woman instead of one of the Parkistani beauties his mother wants him to wed in an arranged marriage.
The family has migrated from Parkistan to Chicago, and strives to uphold their strict Islamic customs in secular America. Kumail appeases them by pretending to engage in daily prayer and going along with his Mom's attempts to mate him with a Pakistani woman. He's already suffered their ire by following his standup comedy dreams rather than a career as a lawyer or doctor. Myriad movies about Jewish families have followed the same plot.
Because of the family conflict, Kumail and Emily break up, but then Emily suffers a serious infection and is placed in an induced coma. While she is unconscious, Kumail comes to the hospital each day, slowly growing close to her parents, vividly played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter.
Bollywood stars Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff give striking performances as Kumail's endearing, devoutly Muslim parents. The Hunter/Romano and Kher/Shroff appearances had me hoping for a sequel in which they meet. I'd love to see an encounter between the two strong-willed, fiercely protective Moms.
Nanjiani, one of the hapless crew on HBO's "Silicon Valley," displays the affable charm that translates into big-screen stardom. He blends nice-guy earnestness, wearisome at times, with eruptions of comic snark.
The big crowd at the Sunday matinee indicates a market for serious, "adult" films while superhero franchises and action series command Hollywood's attention. It's encouraging that movies like "The Big Sick" can still find a place in the world of "Spiderman" and "Baby Driver."