“The Big Sick”, directed by Michael Showalter, written by comedian Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, does, even as a romantic medical comedy (if there is such a thing) lay out the issue of assimilation for religious minorities, especially Muslims.
Kumali, playing himself as having come with his parents as a little boy from Pakistan, does comedy gigs at Chicago nightclubs, more or less on Rush Street. His more conservative but well assimilated Muslim parents urge him to go to law school and become respectable.
Kumali falls in love with a (Gentile) girl Emily (Zoe Kazan), and they start sleeping together. One day Emily twists her ankle in a supermarket, and a few days later is in a medical coma with what looks like a life-threatening opportunistic pneumonia. Kumali is the only one present until family arrives and pretends to be the husband. The doctor asks if she has HIV, which could mean that Kumali has been exposed to AIDS himself. (Yes, heterosexuals can spread it.)
But it turns out that Emily has an unusual automimmune disorder, related to genetics (and probably an earlier infection like mono). Eventually she pulls through, and the end of the film will deal with whether they still have a relationship.
The film presents a few social issue confrontations. Early in the film, when Emily shouts out at him, he scolds her for harassing a comedian, which is considered rude behavior in comedy clubs. (Ask Kate Clinton, whom I have watched on Netflix.) Nevertheless, that helps start the relationship.
While Emily is in the hospital, a caricature of a while nationalist and “Trump supporter” harasses Kmali in the club as a recruiter for “ISIS”. The boorish troll gets tossed by security, but not before he is told he is “bad person”, part of Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”.
Then there is the scene where Kumali is confronted by his parents. Why doesn’t he think about his family instead of himself, they say. Why is an arranged marriage to a Muslim girl not god enough for him? Why won’t he grow his beard? (He looks quite handsome and charismatic as he is, clean-shaven but with his hairy body; most middle Eastern people are actually “white”, a fact that gets lost on a lot of people.) Why won’t he kneel and pray five times a day facing Mecca? Kumali does not such formality is necessary to have the personal faith.
I worked in I.T. or 30 years, and I always encountered software people from India and Pakistan. Until 9/11, nobody thought about religion in the office. Everyone was assimilated. The parents are shown as well off, with beautiful Islamic interior decorations and art work in the house, and well assimilated into American capitalism and business.
At the end, Kumali moves to New York to start in a new club, and Emily has to make a choice.
Chicago picture (wiki).
There was a short film called “Murphy” about a boy, a dog and an animation in the pre-show (M2M).
|Name:||The Big Sick|
|Director, writer:||Michael Showalter, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon|
|When and how viewed:||Angelika Mosaic, 2017/9/10|
|Companies:||Amazon Studios, Lionsgate, Apatow|
(Posted: Monday, September 11, 2017m at 12:30 PM EDT)