Film Review: The Big Sick (2017)

RATED: 4/5

*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

One thing I like to do before watching a movie is avoid watching the trailer. If I had watched the trailer for this movie I would have thought it was another one of your run-of-the-mill rom-coms. But this one is so unconventional, and not just for the obvious reasons. To call it a “rom-com” seems ill-fitted even though it really is a romantic comedy. Can I just say, first of all, how freaking cool would it be to write a movie about yourself and then star in it?!

What I find separates this to a conventional rom-com is that it’s almost as if the more important relationship that blossoms is not actually between Kumail and Emily, but instead between Kumail and Emily’s parents, AND as a ripple effect from that, the relationships between Emily’s parents themselves, Kumail and his parents, and eventually Kumail and Emily.

What worries me the most about how people might react to this film is that they might not understand why his family is the way it is. I am not saying people would be ignorant or uncultured, but I truly believe it would be so hard to wrap your head around his parents’ reasoning for basically disowning him.
Take it from me, a Filipino girl whose devout Catholic parents moved to Australia for a better life but are still so attached to their ancient, strict, Catholic Filipino culture, and I am in love with an Australian man! My life is basically a watered down version of Kumail’s, and I still find it hard to not think his parents are being unreasonable. If I didn’t relate to Kumail so much, I would probably think the way his parents were portrayed was a wild overreaction and that that just does not happen in real life. But it does!

One thing I found a little bit hard to believe was their reason for breaking up in the first place. It just wasn’t enough. I thought that it was just a heat-of-the-moment fight, not that they would break up over that.
Again, I personally went through a watered down version of this. While my parents preferred I married a Filipino man, it was forgivable if I didn’t, but there was absolutely no way I was “allowed” to marry a man who was not Catholic. My boyfriend is Catholic, but he is the kind of Catholic who was baptised as a baby and that’s about as religious as he gets. We were three months into our relationship before I told my parents about him, and not once did he even worry about the fact that I was keeping him a secret from my family, because he understood. He understood that even if you are a grown adult, parents are still going to be strict and sometimes scary. Emily did give Kumail a chance to explain but it seemed to have gone in one ear and out the other. She doesn’t understand that it’s just not that simple.

Kumail’s relationship with Emily’s parents, especially her mother, was just the absolute best part! She was being such a bitch to Kumail, as per the protective-motherly rule of disliking anyone who hurts your daughter, and then she did a 180 and straight up defended Kumail from a racist heckler at one of his stand-up shows. It totally humanised her, made her a real, complex human being. And the way she turned into an excited little kid when Emily woke up from her coma…

There needs to be more characters like her in movies. Not just people who are evil simply because they are evil. You can’t have the good guy as always and only a good guy the whole time, nor the bad guy only ever being bad. To make them real everyone has to have a bit of a shitty moment or a sweet moment and it shouldn’t be unusual for that character, it should just be one mood in a whole spectrum of emotions.
The overlapping dialogue makes the conversations real. We often forget that real life doesn’t play like he-said-this-then-she-said-that. This is what I love the most about The Big Sick. Everything is so real. The characters are real. The premise is real and very relevant to second generation (or other) kids from traditional families growing up in the modern western world. I want to forget that I am watching a movie – I want to see reality.

This film recently popularised a conversation about the lack of brown women in films. I find that the topic was raised for the wrong reason, seeing as it is based on a true story and I don’t believe there is any “discrimination” here by having a white girl as the female lead – it drives the story. But it does bring forward a true and important issue. This has been something I’ve had a problem with for a long time since I dreamed of being an actress as a young girl and found it difficult to not just be cast as a character who didn’t have a nationality specified, but also to even be typecast because of the fact that there is just no demand for brown-skinned South-East Asian females.
By all means, start the conversation about this – let’s finally have real diversity in the screen industry – but don’t use this film as a platform for this argument. Really just take any film with a white female lead where the nationality has nothing to do with the story.

Anyway. The Big Sick was a big plus for me. Seeing a non-Hollywood romantic comedy on the big screen is refreshing.

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Extract from my private journal!

Sometimes, I like to flick back to entries I had written a few months ago, just to see where my head was at. I never share extracts from my private journal, but I was particularly proud of this one.
(This was during the time I actually wrote in my journal everyday. Ha.)

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1.25a.m. Fri, 9th Dec, ’11

No news today but let me just gush about the ingenuity that takes its human from in Michel Gondry. I’m idolising him so hard right now, it hurts. I can’t believe it was only last year after watching The Science of Sleep that I discovered him. I am just so in awe of his creativity and imagination and the way he executes it in film. If there’s ever a brain I want to pick apart, piece by piece, it would be his.
Even while watching him talking in a “making of” video for a music video, I could still see the kid in him, sort of like Seth Cohen, if you will. It’s amazing.

His quirkiness is unlike any other film director I know. [Present Angela says: I now know many more directors, and yes, there are directors as quirky as him, but I believe his type of quirky is in a league of its own!] It’s hard to explain what his films are like, almost like it’s reality, but not. Unlike most film directors, he really utilises the magic of film, and his creations are the kinds of things that I want to show pretentious theatre-lovers who categorise all film like Hollywood films.
Michel Gondry’s films are really like looking into someone’s mind, someone’s imagination. It’s all surreal, yet it’s sort of realistic? I guess the only way I can describe it is like being in a dream, or watching a dream, because they are surreal, but… realistic. I feel like I’m not explaining it right though, because you see The Science of Sleep and you watch the “beautiful objects” scene and it’s all just surreal and you’d think I’m crazy to call it realistic. All I can say is that watching his work is like watching a dream.

That’s why The Science of Sleep is my ultimate favourite film of all time. I think it’s one of those films I need to watch every few months and not get sick of it. I need to watch it to get my regular dose of quirky. Even tonight, I hadn’t seen the film or the trailer for probably 4-5 months, then I saw the trailer today and absolutely could not stop smiling.

As an aspiring filmmaker, he has just the style I love exactly, and aspire to be like; to execute, through film, the weird workings of the mind, to see reality in a surreal way (that’s the one!), just like Michel Gondry’s work and also sort of like John Dorian’s mind from Scrubs.
Those are the kinds of films I want to create.

I’ll admit, I’m sort of half-disappointed that Michel Gondry is already one of those top-notch higly renowned directors in France and the U.S [Present Angela says: after studying at a film school for seven months, I have learned that he is actually not as famous as I thought he was!], because I thought, when I came to like his work last year, that I had found an indie film director through my own liking of a film, and not really (technically) through someone else I know. And no, not indie like, ooh cool indie director guy. Indie like independent film. So I thought I had discovered this guy that no one really knows, and I found him by my own means. It’s hard to explain without sounding all ‘I found a director that’s not mainstream, yeaaah.’ But that kind of is the situation but not.
I guess it’s like when I discovered MuteMath, or Phoenix, or even Plain Jane Automobile. I found these bands that I like, not by a means of hearing about them through pop-culture, but by finding them on my own through the internet or through seeing them linked with other artists I like. Michel Gondry is like a director I discovered through watching a film of my own interest that I liked so much, I looked up and found out I already saw another of his amazing films, Eternal Sunshine [of the Spotless Mind].

Anyway, turns out discovering Michel Gondry on my own without pop-culture is like discovering Lady Gaga without pop-culture; kind of silly of me to not have noticed him earlier.
But I’m glad he’s so renowned – it gives him even greater opportunities to create more and better, and you know he won’t change his style over fame because (he’s already famous) he’s not a pop star.
P.S. He’s French and therefore has le accent. 🙂 I’m not crushing on him, but bonus points for being French.
P.P.S. I miss French class, and learning + speaking French. 😦

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Well that was a lot longer than I thought it was going to be!