Could “The Big Sick” be one of the year’s earliest Oscar contenders? True, 2017 is nearly half over, so it’s hardly the earliest acclaimed film of the year, but studios usually aren’t in an Oscar frame of mind until the fall, when they start releasing their weightiest biopics, historical dramas, and other such genres that tend to garner the most awards attention. By that standard, an indie romantic comedy from June doesn’t seem on paper like the likeliest bet.
But so far critics are overjoyed by “The Big Sick,” which has a MetaCritic score of 86 and 97% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing. So it might be time to give it serious consideration as an awards contender, with reviewers calling it not just “joyous” and “generous-hearted” but “astutely insightful.” It deals with issues “that romantic comedies don’t usually touch on, like serious illness, struggles in long-term marriages, and religion.”
Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani stars in the film. He also co-wrote the film with his wife Emily V. Gordon based on the true story of their interracial relationship, which was further complicated by her serious illness. His love interest is the film is played by Emmy nominee Zoe Kazan (“Olive Kitteridge”), and her parents are played by Emmy winner Ray Romano and Oscar winner Holly Hunter. It’s directed by Michael Showalter, a comedian in his own right who also directed “Hell, My Name is Doris” starring Sally Field.
Oscar voters don’t usually go for contemporary romantic comedies — except when they do. “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994) was nominated for Best Picture, as were “Jerry Maguire” (1996), “As Good as it Gets” (1997), “Sideways” (2004) and “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012). And other acclaimed indie comedies occasionally make the cut, like “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006) and “Juno” (2007). “La La Land” counts too; that was a romantic comedy, just with a little more singing and dancing than usual. “La La Land” was distributed by Lionsgate, the same company releasing “The Big Sick.”
But even if it’s not a Best Picture contender, “The Big Sick” may have success reminiscent of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” which was also written by its star (Nia Vardalos) based on her own family. That film became a sleeper hit in 2002 and earned Vardalos an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Do you think “The Big Sick” will be an Oscar player? Check out some of the glowing reviews below.
Manohla Dargis (New York Times): “Love means having to say you’re sorry — early and often. That’s one of the truisms in ‘The Big Sick,’ a joyous, generous-hearted romantic comedy that, even as it veers into difficult terrain, insists that we just need to keep on laughing.”
Justin Chang (LA Times): “And so it is with ‘The Big Sick,’ which, in charting the romance between a Pakistani American man and a white woman, invigorates the Apatovian formula and indeed an entire genre with a thorny study of interracial relationships and the bonds that hold immigrant families together across an ever-widening generation gap.”
Christy Lemire (RogerEbert.com): “‘The Big Sick’ also functions as an astutely insightful exploration of how we live now with the Pakistan-born comic, starring as himself, enduring racism that’s both casual and pointed. But the pivotal plot point in “The Big Sick” is a potentially deadly illness—hence the title—which … allows the film’s characters to evolve in ways that feel substantial and real.”
Alissa Wilkinson (Vox): “It’s hard to imagine seeing a more charming movie in 2017 than ‘The Big Sick,’ which hits all the right romantic comedy notes with one unusual distinction: It feels like real life … the film is funny and sweet while not backing away from matters that romantic comedies don’t usually touch on, like serious illness, struggles in long-term marriages, and religion.”