Who said the rom­com is dead?

Ku­mail Nan­jiani and Zoe Kazan charm through­out as Judd Apa­tow finds his groove again, writes

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - Don­ald Clarke

THE BIG SICK Di­rected by Michael Showalter. Star­ring Ku­mail Nan­jiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Ro­mano, Anu­pam Kher, Zeno­bia Shroff, Adeel Akhtar, Bo Burn­ham, Aidy Bryant 15A cert, gen re­lease, 120 min

The main­stream ro­man­tic com­edy is dead. It’s with Lu­bitsch in the grave. Af­ter a long spell as one of Hol­ly­wood’s most fe­cund gen­res, the rom­com fell in the early part of this cen­tury to the McConaughey 1.01 virus. Or that’s how it looked.

Thank heav­ens for The Big

Sick. Ku­mail Nan­jiani (best known from Sil­i­con Val­ley) has plun­dered his own bi­og­ra­phy to de­liver a com­edy that, though it fol­lows all the fa­mil­iar pat­terns, puts air back in the pa­tient’s lungs. You know how it goes. A cou­ple meet. They like one an­other. An ob­sta­cle im­poses it­self. They may or may not get past it.

What sets the film apart is an odd­ness that could only have sprung from real life. That and sin­cer­ity, com­pas­sion, hu­man­ity.

The nervy, pas­sive Nan­jiani, co-writ­ing with his wife Emily V Gor­don, plays a stand-up comic who shares his own fore­name. This Ku­mail is get­ting by in the Chicago clubs while his Pak­istani par­ents ar­range his mar­riage to a suit­able girl from their own com­mu­nity. One night, a perky Wasp (Zoe Kazan), who shares Ms Gor­don’s fore­name, heck­les from the au­di­ence and the cou­ple be­gin a friend­ship that soon turns into a ro­mance.

The first of two ob­sta­cles is the more con­ven­tional. Like the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion pro­tag­o­nists of so many south-Asian im­mi­grant sto­ries– Bend it Like Beck­ham, East is East, My Beau­ti­ful Laun­drette, Halal Daddy – Ku­mail is too ac­com­mo­dated to the new world for his par­ents’ taste. He keeps the ro­mance a se­cret.

The sec­ond ob­sta­cle is al­to­gether stranger. About half­way through, Emily must be placed into a med­i­cally in­duced coma af­ter con­tract­ing a se­ri­ous in­fec­tion. This ac­tu­ally hap­pened to Gor­don. While wait­ing for her to re­cover, the fic­tional Ku­mail gets to know his girl­friend’s par­ents: a charm­ing, bum­bling Ray Ro­mano and an ini­tially fear­some, but ul­ti­mately sup­port­ive Holly Hunter.

Among the mir­a­cles of The Big Sick is the way it plays to the tra­di­tional rhythms while en­ter­tain­ing that most un­usual plot turn. The fe­male lead is miss­ing for a good third of the pic­ture, but she feels present through­out.

Poor Michael Showalter brings a light touch to the di­rec­tion. Most of the credit has, how­ever, gone the way of the two writ­ers and of pro­ducer Judd Apa­tow. Af­ter the bor­ing Funny Peo­ple and the re­ac­tionary Train­wreck, Apa­tow has his en­gine back in gear. The rom­com is saved. For the rest of the sum­mer, any­way.

Un­lkely lad and lass Ku­mail Nan­jiani and Zoe Kazan meet again in a su­per­mar­ket aisle

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