What's wrong with today's romantic comedies? Well, a lot. There is the ridiculous cliché formula of man falling for woman, man losing woman, and (assuming it's a comedy and not a drama) man getting woman back. Every now and then the genders are swapped and viewers rave about the originality of a female lead taking charge (but it still follows the cliché formula!). Sure, that is ultimately what happens in The Big Sick, but The Big Sick does something very right while using this formula that many other romantic comedies do wrong. The Big Sick shows the humanity of the characters involved and does not paint them in a seemingly objective light of perfection or failure. When Emily wakes from the coma, for example, she does not welcome Kumail back with open arms. We can talk about how in the average romantic comedy little depth is provided in regard to the female character - she is usually very pretty but rarely seems to have earned the desire of the lead character. Her simply "being" is enough to drive him to pursue her. In the average romantic comedy, Emily would have woken up from the coma and been immediately taken Kumail back. Another piece to break the usual formula was the inclusion of Emily's parents and the role they played in allowing the audience (and Kumail) to really get to know Emily. As an avid movie watcher and a harsh romantic comedy critic, I found this movie a much needed, refreshing addition to the genre. First, the characters are not displayed as flawless, beautiful people who happen to fall in love because their stars happened to align. While keeping in mind there is only so much time to work with, the characters are relatively round characters with internal and external struggles that are shown without being spoon fed to the audience. More importantly, this movie addresses a very real minority issue that few have addressed in the past: the idea of family obligation as it related to immigrant families - prearranged marriage expectations being a small piece of this obligation. While there have been several indie films that have addressed this conflict of cultures, few have done so with the objectivity and heart of The Big Sick. My main criticism is that the supporting comedian actors came off as a bit flat and their role was so obviously the comic relief that it felt somewhat cheap. That being said, I am more than willing to overlook this because of the many things this movie did right.
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