The romantic comedy has not caught up with the 21st century. The genre continues to be the whitest, most conventional, most formulaic movies at the box office. Mega-hits like “Love Actually” from early in the millennium have now been hit by criticism for their homogenous cast and traditional love stories. The rare Oscar-winning rom-com, 2012’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” is a exhausting laundry list of movie tropes — running, football, classic novels, a dance competition, and illegal betting. And as movie studios fail to romance audiences with 90-minute montages of glassy-eyed children’s librarians falling in love with architects with tragic pasts, the endlessly diverse and imaginative Golden Age of Television rages on.
But watching beautiful, sweater-draped people fall in love in funny circumstances is one of the greatest joys available on this mortal coil. Like a beautiful tomboy turned prom queen or a stunning shipwreck survivor, can the romantic comedy genre be saved by love?
The answer is obvious: Yes, if it’s true love. And now, thankfully, we are about to get the romantic comedy 2017 needs.
Comedian Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and writer Emily V. Gordon fell in love when she was a psychology graduate student and he was a struggling comic. He was a Pakistani Muslim from a traditional family. She was a white woman from North Carolina. She contracted a mysterious illness and was put in a medically-induced coma. That week, he met her parents.
Nanjiani and Gordon wrote “The Big Sick,” starring Nanjiani and actress Zoe Kazan, based on their real relationship. Produced by Judd Apatow and directed by Michael Showalter (“Wet Hot American Summer”), the movie starts as a light romance but expands into something more complex. Kumail confronts both his girlfriend’s mortality and his future in-laws’ prejudice in the same hour. “So uh — 9/11,” Emily’s dad (Ray Romano) says to Kumail in the hospital cafeteria. “I’ve always wanted to have a conversation with…people.” Kumail looks concerned. “You’ve never talked to people about 9/11?”
At another point in the trailer, Kumail appeases nervous-looking diner patrons who have been staring at him and his friend by shouting, “It’s okay! We hate terrorists!” No weepily beautiful librarians or traumatized architects here — just a true story about love, family, and a hint of race relations.
Watch the official “The Big Sick” trailer here: