It’s hard to believe, but it’s been ten years since Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up,” which came out June 1, 2007.
“Knocked Up” paved the way for explicit comedy that tells emotional human stories. It’s a laugh-out-loud vulgar comedy, but at its heart it’s a love story about growing up.
Director, writer, and producer Judd Apatow started a trend with the movie (one that technically started with “The 40-Year Old Virgin” a few years prior), and his style paved the way for many comedies over the past decade, from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” to “Bridesmaids.”
“The Big Sick” premiered to critical acclaim at Sundance Film Festival back in January, and came out in theaters in LA and New York City last weekend — it gets it wide release on July 14. In its first weekend on limited release, “The Big Sick” became 2017’s highest opening weekend per-theater-average — in five theaters, it grossed $435,000.
It helped to have Apatow involved in “The Big Sick” — he was a producer, and his touch is evident. The script, based on a true story that happened to stand-up comic and “Silicon Valley” star Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, producer/writer Emily Gordon, was written by the husband-wife duo. Michael Showalter of “Wet Hot American Summer” fame directed the movie, and it was released by Amazon Studios/Lionsgate.
The premise feels so ripped from a soap opera that it’s hard to believe it actually happened to Nanjiani and Gordon. In the film, Kumail (played by Nanjiani) meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) when she heckles him at a comedy club in Chicago. They go home together, and despite the fact that Kumail knows he has to marry a Muslim woman (he keeps a box of photos of the women his mom introduces him to) or he will shame the family, he continues to date her — without telling Emily about any of it. Things go very well for Kumail and Emily at first.
The dialogue and both leads accurately capture the awkward and magical progression of a blossoming relationship. There is a scene where Emily tries to leave Kumail’s apartment in the middle of the night to poop somewhere else, which goes in a sweet direction instead of the expected gross one. But eventually Emily finds out about the women in the box and they break up.
Then Kumail gets a call and finds out Emily is in the hospital. He visits her, and a doctor tells him that they need to put her in a medically-induced coma. While Emily is in a coma, Kumail sticks around despite their bitter break-up, which at first annoys Emily’s parents, played by the superbly cast and incredibly funny Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.
Better than any other movie in recent memory, “The Big Sick“ finds the light in the dark. A movie about a girlfriend in a coma — and a man risking cutting ties from his family to be with her — brought some of the biggest laughs I’ve had in years. The longer Kumail sticks around at the hospital, the more Emily’s parents warm up to him. One night, Emily’s parents attend one of his stand-up shows, and Emily’s mom defends Kumail against a heckler who tells him to “go back to ISIS.” In another scene later on in the film, Emily’s dad opens up to Kumail about a time that he cheated on his wife. It’s heartbreaking content, but the chemistry and the delivery from Nanjiani and Romano (who is seriously peaking right now) make it one of the sweetest and funniest parts of the movie.
Ten years ago, “Knocked Up” had similar moments, but not on as dramatic a scale. “Knocked Up” also has a hundred dick jokes to “The Big Sick’s” two or three (maybe less). That’s because “The Big Sick” was written completely from the heart. Nanjiani and Gordon knew they had a story worth sharing, and they didn’t sacrifice any time just for the laughs. All of the jokes are natural, and there aren’t any scenes (besides scenes that take place at a comedy club) that were written to just be joke-delivery scenes.
This tragic story with a happy ending and a lot of happy moments throughout the journey is one of the best romantic comedies in years. And, just like “Knocked Up” shaped the next wave of comedies, “The Big Sick” will hopefully do so as well — which is a good sign for the future of rom coms, and Nanjiani and Gordon’s careers as a screenwriting duo.