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A Pakistan-born, aspiring comedian named Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) connects with a grad student named Emily (Zoe Kazan) after one of his standup sets. What they thought would be just a one-night stand blossoms into the real thing, which complicates the life that is expected of Kumail by his traditional Muslim parents. When Emily is beset with a mysterious illness, it forces Kumail to navigate the medical crisis with her parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) who he's never met, while dealing with the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart. (From Lionsgate’s official synopsis)

 Big Sick, The
Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick – which should perhaps be called Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani’s The Big Sick, since they co-wrote it, based on their own life stories and Nanjiani stars – has ridden high atop a wave of critical and audience love that barrels it right past the usual expectations of the romantic comedy and ‘outsider culture’ subgenres. As someone who doesn’t tend to enjoy rom-coms or the Hollywood brand of feel-good cultural comedies – not because they’re objectionably bad or because formulas themselves are bad, of course – I was skeptical. It begins as an ethnic-twist on every sarcastic, sickly-sweet Judd Apatow movie you’ve ever seen. What makes this early section work, besides Nanjiani’s refreshing angle on the material and palpable chemistry with co-star Zoe Kazan, is its compressed nature. It takes the tired Apatow formula and crams it into the first half of a just barely overlong movie as a set up for a more compelling and less expected story about a young woman’s parents who slowly learn to love with their daughter’s ex/maybe-not-so-ex-boyfriend in the midst of cultural and medical barriers.

Ultimately, The Big Sick is more or less the exact movie we all saw advertised and, despite being based on the screenwriters’ true story, it fits a weary blueprint. The filmmakers also bite off more than they can chew by adding Emily’s parents’ estranged relationship into the already heady brew. The health scare angle has some personal resonance (even though I’ve usually only experienced the whole circus from the other side, I can verify that the basic facts of the matter are correctly represented), so I’m not positive others that also run lukewarm on rom-com type stuff will be as touched as I was. Still, a smart version of a tired concept, especially one that challenges its typical audience with less than typical character types, uncommon story angles, and real-world emotional dilemmas.

 Big Sick, The

Video


I can’t find any official specs for The Big Sick, outside of the end credit acknowledgement of the Arri company, which could mean either a film or digital format. I decided to assume that Showalter and cinematographer Brian Burgoyne mostly used 35mm, but honestly do not know (if you know, tell me in the comments). What I do know is that the photography skews very dark, including dank basement comedy clubs, perpetually dim apartments/houses, and underlit hospital rooms (trust me, they never get that dark). This causes minor clarity issues and significant upticks in grain/noise. Some of this might have been unavoidable and the overall detail is plenty lifelike where it counts, but the grain/noise is pretty excessive for a 2017 release – film or digital. My initial assumption is that is that it is film and the grain is inherent, but the flatness of the artefacts is similar to that seen on compressed streaming television. These fluttering dots are most obvious in neutral hues and smoothly coloured areas (notice the sign in the final cap). Additional artefacts include edge enhancement in wide angle details and minor ghosting issues (another notch in the ‘maybe it’s digital’ column). The palette is very consistent, consisting mostly of a handful of browns/tans, greens, and blues, though the limited tones are not what I’d call uncanny, unlike more excessively orange & teal productions. The red highlights do tend to bleed when they’re set in blurry backgrounds and, given the shallow/soft focus choices, this does happen relatively often. This is by no means a disaster of a transfer – most viewers probably won’t even notice the problems – but Lionsgate is usually capable of better.

Audio


The Big Sick is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound and meets the standards of a typical dialogue-driven indie film. The aural design if very ‘front-loaded’ in that the dialogue is heavily centered (including reverb/echo effects) and environmental ambience tends to be reserved to the stereo channels, though there are some very effective club/bar sequences that engage the rear speakers. Former Greyboy Allstars member Mike Andrews – the guy that made Tears for Fears “Mad World” cool again when he re-recorded it with Gary Jules for the Donnie Darko soundtrack – supplies a typically ‘quirky,’ mostly acoustic score that is neatly and warmly integrated into the otherwise dry aural environments.

 Big Sick, The

Extras


  • Commentary with director Michael Showalter, actor/co-writer Kumail Nanjiani, co-writer Emily V. Gordon, and producer Barry Mendel – A lot of this track is devoted to Nanjiani and Gordon comparing the events of the movie to the events of their real lives, from the story and characters, all the way down to the set and costume design. For their parts, Mendel and Showalter fill in some of the technical details and act as track moderators, occasionally asking the writers pertinent questions. As expected for a group track, the participants tend to lose focus, but the content is consistently good/informative.
  • A Personal Journey: The Making of The Big Sick[/i] (14:49, HD) – A cute, fluffy little making-of EPK, complete with cast & crew interviews.
  • The Real Story (7:11, HD) – Nanjiani and the real Emily Gordon compare the movie version of events to their actual courtship (again, for those that haven’t already listened the commentary)
  • 2017 SXSW Film Festival panel footage (11:32, HD) – Q&A with Nanjiani, Gordon, Showalter, and Apatow.
  • The Big Sick: The Other Stuff (3:47, HD) – Outtakes/alternate improvised jokes.
  • Eight deleted scenes (10:06, HD)
  • The Bigger Sick: Stick Around for More Laughs[/i] (10:25, HD) – A promo for the Big Sick comedy tour, in which cast & crew members performed stand-up before the film.
  • Trailers for other Lionsgate release


 Big Sick, The

Overall


The Big Sick is a sweet, smart, and very well-made variation on a beloved formula that should please rom-com devotees and even snag the affections of the genre’s detractors. It’s a little too long, but it uses its time better than most Judd Apatow movies (as director and/or producer). The Blu-ray image is a bit problematic, though not so extensively that it ruins the experience. The DTS-HD MA sound is strong and the charming extras offer both laughs and extra information on the true story behind the film.

 Big Sick, The

 Big Sick, The
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray, then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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