There has been a quiet evolution to the “indie” film, for those who care to look. What began as a way to produce a movie that couldn't find funding or support in the traditional (and, for whatever politics were present in the behind the camera, relatively conservative) Hollywood market, has changed into something else. Now it is frequently applied to a low (or at least lower) budget production that explores macro lessons on a micro scale.
But in the last few years, indie movies have deepened their writing, and found a way to squeeze more nuanced and heartfelt writing into the same runtime. Indie movies of today are, on the whole, more understanding of how to ground these stories in truth and potency.
“The Big Sick” is one of the finest examples of that growth in recent memory. Written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon (and based on their real-life love story), we first find Kumail (played by Nanjiani) struggling to navigate a double life. His parents still adhere to the traditions of their native Pakistan, which sits at odds with Kumail’s life as a comic, Uber driver, and modern dater. When he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), they hit it off almost immediately — that is, until she finds the box of potentials for arranged marriage.
But just when Emily and Kumail seem destined to never see each other again, Emily gets put in a coma. And suddenly Kumail must reckon with her, his traditions, and her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano).
The logline of “The Big Sick” is a specific one; it's safe to say you've never seen a movie that is exploring the unique challenges here. But the effects of the movie are not unique at all.
First of all it's hysterical, landing every joke from start to finish. Nanjiani, perhaps best known for his work on “Silicon Valley,” has a similar dry delivery here but with an abundance more heart. His scenes with Emily and her family walk that fine, indie movie line of writing funny, insightful conversations that still feel borne of real life.
Which brings me to my second and perhaps most important point of universality here: the film has a mature understanding of the trials and tribulations it's putting the characters through. It knows there are no simple answers or solutions -- in fact, “The Big Sick” takes delight in splashing around in that messy, hard place that the rock of life has left us in. Kumail gets as much time to grow and confront his life as he does to crackwise on the stand-up stage or with Emily's parents.
Whenever there's an opportunity to take the easy way out “The Big Sick” holds to its guns. It proves that there's more fun and reward in wading through all the muck than just the idea of it. It's the kind of movie that can make you believe that love can conquer all, and that indie films aren't going the way of the dodo.