It’s well documented that Kumail Nanjiani grew up adoring the Richard Curtis-Hugh Grant romantic comedies of the 90s, in particular Four Weddings and a Funeral. But what’s so appealing about Nanjiani’s own romantic comedy, The Big Sick, which he wrote with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, and which is based on the story of their courtship, is that it is sui generis, wearing no obvious influences on its sleeve. “We wanted to take the tropes of the rom-com and tell a different kind of story,” says Nanjiani. “Sort of like what Jordan Peele did with Get Out. He was able to take the horror genre, the tropes of which people are very aware of, and use it to say something new, from a different point of view.”
Of late, Peele and the Nanjiani-Gordon team have often been mentioned in the same breath, as fellow nominees in the Oscars’ original-screenplay category. More melancholic than frothy, and anchored by rumpled, contrivance-free performances by Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan, The Big Sick addresses such subjects as the sudden onset of a medical crisis; the penurious, uncertain lives of aspiring stand-up comics; and, most impressively, the pain and guilt associated with assimilation. (Nanjiani’s character risks excommunication from his Pakistani-immigrant family for not submitting to an arranged marriage.)
Yet The Big Sick’s cumulative effect is somehow . . . uplift and fun! “You know what’s cool?,” Nanjiani asks. “Now a lot of people are seeing it on airplanes. I’ll get tweets from people saying, ‘I saw it on the plane, and I saw other people watching it! It was all The Big Sick and Wonder Woman!’ ”
Get Vanity Fair’s HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.David KampDavid Kamp has been a Vanity Fair contributing editor since 1996, profiling such monumental figures of the arts as Johnny Cash, Lucian Freud, Sly Stone, and John Hughes.