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The Big Sick

Comic Kumail Nanjiani has created something really special, funny and heartwarming with his first feature film, THE BIG SICK.

You've seen a million comedies with what Roger Ebert used to call the "meet cute". Two people from opposite backgrounds meet by chance and then the story takes them down a familiar road of new love, conflict and happily ever after.

The brilliance of this film is that once the meet cute happens, everything else takes a decidedly different path that feels all too real, perhaps because it is.

Based on the true story of Pakistan born comedian Nanjiani and written by Kumail and his real-life wife Emily Gordon, we watch as Kumail and Emily meet at one of his comedy gigs and fall into bed.

As their relationship blossoms, we meet Kamail's extended family, all of whom are played by gifted comic actors. His mother tries to fix him up at every Sunday family dinner "Oh look who just happened to drop by!" and his father prides himself on the power of traditional arranged marriage.

His brother is a hilarious mix of Pakistani and American passions and gets some of the biggest laughs in the film.

When Emily is suddenly rushed to the hospital and falls into a health crisis that leaves her teetering on death, Kumail meets her family, who know far more about him that he can imagine.

Holly Hunter (Broadcast News, Always) is excellent as Beth, Emily's mother. Fiercely protective of Emily, she wants to push Kumail out of the picture. Her husband Terry (perfectly played in a funny but strong dramatic performance by Ray Romano) opens the door a bit, feeling sorry for Kumail.

From there, the story propels forward, with NONE of the stereotypical scenes you think you'll see.

These families are real, and they're tragic and hilarious in equal measure.

There's not a weak spot in the cast. Zoe Kazan is terrific as Emily. Her desire for commitment as Kumail struggles with family expectations sets up what follows perfectly. Nanjiani is a funny comic, but like Romano, he proves himself equally adept at drama.

Director Michael Showalter surprised me last time out with the unexpected pleasures of Sally Field's "My Name is Doris" and he does the same here, bringing his fresh eye and style to another non-traditional romantic comedy.

There's great pleasure in watching a story unfold where everything feels real, including the dialogue.

The surrounding families bring huge laughs and quiet reflection and Nanjiani & Gordon's screenplay is as good as it gets, surely to be nominated for an Oscar next year.

With an ending that surprises you in its perfection, THE BIG SICK is one of the greatest pleasures of the year and gets an A.

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