News from the Locarno Festival

The Big Sick

Piazza Grande

The Big Sick



The Big Sick comes to Locarno fresh from a triumphal reception at the Sundance Festival and a box office take in the US that made it one of the unexpected hits of the summer. The film updates the lessons of romantic comedy to the 21st century, to the era of Obama, a Chicago more cool than NYC and an America that proudly lays claim to its multiculturality and wants to move on from 9/11, to the point that it can allow jokes about terrorists and a stand-up comic who plays on his Pakistani heritage.
The focal point and driving force of the story is Kumail Nanjiani, who was inspired by the actual story of how he met his now-wife, Emily V. Gordon. Produced by Judd Apatow, The Big Sick gets underway with an indie comedy rhythm, focusing on the young Kumail, Uber driver by day and aspiring comedian doing stand-up in a bar by night. This is neither the politically incorrect territory of Amy Schumer, nor the vulgar farce of the Farrelly brothers. The push towards the comic is always balanced by a delicate if not romantic tone. If the portrait of Kumail’s family is delightfully amusing, the meeting with Emily shifts the narrative track towards a love story which, as dictated by tradition, has to reckon with various obstacles from one side or another. The fact that it is based on the actor’s real life gives the film a twist as rapid as it is unexpected, introducing a dramatic element that a traditional comedy could never have suggested. Here the film’s perfectly American and well-matched second couple come into the picture. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are splendid as Emily’s parents, giving the story a further depth and also relaunching the film’s theme of accepting the other, whether weak, sick or foreign. A direct response to Trump’s politics?

Carlo Chatrian

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