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The Big Sick is a romantic comedy like no other. Yes, two people fall in love—but that’s about all The Big Sick has in common with your average romantic comedy. This film is an amazing beast off in its own category.

Real-life couple Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and Emily V. Gordon penned the script based on their own courtship. Nanjiani plays himself, while the eternally awesome Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) steps into the role of Emily. Their story is incredible, and the way it is presented here—by a fine ensemble under the direction of the great Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name Is Doris, Wet Hot American Summer)—results in one of the year’s best films.

Kumail is a standup comedian trying to make it in Chicago when Emily takes in one of his sets. The two wind up in bed together, with Kumail actually being the Uber driver who has to take her home. They have a good time, but they vow to never see each other again.

That doesn’t last long, and the two wind up in a relationship—one that Kumail keeps secret from his Pakistani parents (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff), who are trying to arrange a wife for him. Things get complicated, and the two of them split. Things get even more complicated when Emily winds up in the emergency room with flu-like symptoms, and Kumail is called upon by her friends to check on her.

After an awkward hospital visit, Emily winds up in an induced coma, with Kumail informing her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter). As Emily’s situation worsens, Kumail, technically her ex-boyfriend, spends a lot of time with her parents—and a lot of time coming to terms with his feelings for Emily.

Nothing you know about Ray Romano will prepare you for just how damn good he is as Terry, Emily’s sensitive dad. I mean, the man was funny on Everybody Loves Raymond, but who knew he could not only do drama, but more than hold his own with an epic Holly Hunter? He has a scene in Kumail’s apartment, where he reveals details of his marital tensions, that will stand as one of the year’s best-acted scenes. He’s a legitimate Best Supporting Actor Oscar contender.

Hunter is right there along with him when it comes to Oscar worthiness. Her Beth is a strong-willed person—so strong that she practically beats up a frat boy who is heckling Kumail at one of his gigs. Hunter is always good, but this role is her best in years. It’s also her funniest turn since playing Edwina in Raising Arizona 30 years ago. (Yes, Raising Arizona came out 30 years ago. Let that linger for a moment.)

Showalter—who actually spoofed romantic comedies when he co-wrote the script for 2014’s They Came Together starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler—rides the film’s shifting tones like an expert surfer. There are so many ways in which this movie could’ve gone wrong, but it’s never melodramatic or kitschy or cutesy. It deals with every relationship, cultural issue and family problem in an incisive way—all while making you laugh and cry. Hats off to Showalter.

Nanjiani, like Romano, has shown a stellar ability to make people laugh with past projects, but he delivers a range of emotions here that should lead him to dramatic roles for the foreseeable future, if he wants them. He is yet another Oscar contender—and even though her character spends a good chunk of this movie asleep, don’t count out Kazan, either, an actress of extreme power.

I don’t think I’ve ever before had to use my T-shirt sleeve to dab away tears from both laughing and crying while watching a movie in public. The Big Sick got me both ways—and it will get you, too.

The Big Sick is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

The season is in full swing, so there are plenty of great March events to talk about—and this is the last hurrah before the craziness of Coachella and Stagecoach set in next month.

The McCallum Theatre will host some amazing theater events during the month of March; you can read more about that in our Arts & Culture section’s theater listings. Thankfully, there are some great music events as well. Michael Feinstein (right) will be stopping by for performances at 8 p.m., Friday, March 7, and Saturday, March 8. Feinstein was mentored by the late Ira Gershwin, and he’s been labeled as the “Ambassador of the Great American Songbook.” This is one you won’t want to miss. Tickets are $65 to $105. Jazz-vocalist Steve Tyrell will be appearing at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 22. Tyrell makes vocal pop classics cool for modern audiences—and has been doing so for more than 40 years. Tickets are $45 to $85.McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple of events that should be, in a word, huge—on back-to-back nights, no less. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 21, Everybody Loves Raymond stars Ray Romano and Brad Garrett will be performing. The TV show focused on the Barone family, and was based on the real-life experiences of Romano and some of the show’s production and writing staff. It was a huge hit during its entire nine-year run on CBS—in large part due to the talents of comedians-turned-actors Romano and Garrett. Tickets are $65 to $85. In a rather spectacular booking, Liza Minnelli will be coming to the desert at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 22. The daughter of Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli has made quite a name for herself both musically and on the big screen. More recently, she became a hit on TV as well, thanks to her hilarious portrayal of Lucille 2 on Arrested Development. Of course, she’s also famous due to some personal issues, including alcoholism and a strange marriage to David Gest, who filed a lawsuit against Minnelli for alleged physical abuse. (The suit was later dismissed.) Still, she’s a true icon—and an inspiration for many famous drag performers! Tickets are $80 to $120. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino will host great events throughout March that should draw big crowds. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 7, Daryl Hall and John Oates will be playing. Hall and Oates are icons of ’80s pop music, best known for “Maneater” and “You Make My Dreams.” Meanwhile, video-game lovers know them thanks to the appearance of “Out of Touch” on the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City soundtrack. Tickets are $49 to $79. R&B superstar John Legend will be stopping by at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 22. While many modern “R&B” singers don’t really have a lot of R&B in their music, Legend is a genuine soul singer with elements of Motown and Stax Records in his sound. In 2010, Legend and The Roots teamed up for the album Wake Up, which was a huge hit. Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

At Spotlight 29 Casino, comedy trailblazer/legend Joan Rivers will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 1. An amusing personal story: I used to work at the now-late Borders Books and Music in Rancho Mirage, and Rivers stopped by there for a book-signing in 2009. At the time, she was being filmed for the documentary A Piece of Work. Well, I wound up in the film, with her sharing an amusing tidbit about Carol Channing while she personalized a copy of her book for me. Now 80, Rivers’ mouth is as filthy as ever, and she looks like a walking plastic-surgery miracle. Thankfully, she’s also as funny as ever. Tickets are $35 to $55. Country-music star Kenny Rogers will also be stopping by Spotlight 29, at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 15. The star of the ’80s film Six Pack is also well known for that song about how to be a good gambler; perhaps you should listen to it for advice if you plan on gambling that night in the casino. Tickets are $55 to $75. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has yet another busy schedule during the month of March. If you’re in the mood for blues, The Record Company will be performing at 8 p.m., Friday, March 14. They’re a group of young, modern-day blues musicians, but trust me: You will enjoy their traditional blues style and sound. I highly suggest listening to their song “Baby I’m Broken” if you want a little preview. Admission is free. The Black Lips will be stopping in at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 20. The Atlanta band is a throwback to the days of psychedelic rock, with a low-fi twist—and an unorthodox live show. Vocalist Cole Alexander often vomits during performances due to a medical condition. Other outrageous live antics have included chickens, setting instruments on fire, and a variety of other things that could have them arrested. Tickets are $18. In the midst of an impressive comeback due in part to audiophiles who seek out rare records and then share information about them online, Linda Perhacs will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 29. Perhacs released a trippy psychedelic folk anthem in 1970 titled Parallelograms, which has since been rediscovered by the millennials. The album featured haunting folk anthems that went the way of an Alice Coltrane album at times; “Hey, Who Really Cares?” is enough to give one the creeps. Now, 44 years later, she’s releasing her sophomore album, called The Soul of All Natural Things. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Date Shed has a couple of intriguing events booked in March. If you had a great time at Tribal Seeds show in February, you may want to attend the Fortunate Youth show at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 8. The Los Angeles-based reggae outfit has played some high profile reggae festivals and has toured with Tribal Seeds and The Expendables. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 15, Cleveland rap legends Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (right) will be stopping by. As a native Clevelander, I remember when E. 1999 Eternal dropped in 1995, and you’d hear “1st of tha Month” and “The Crossroads” playing on every car stereo. “1st of tha Month” would also go on to be hilariously referenced in Chris Rock’s stand-up comedy routine. Plus there was the unforgettable moment in MTV Music Awards history when law enforcement showed up to arrest Bizzy Bone. Tickets are $40 to $100. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

The Copa Room has some worthy events occurring in March. Comedienne Heather McDonald will be performing at 8:30 p.m., Friday, March 14, and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 15. McDonald has regularly appeared on Chelsea Lately and is now a best-selling author thanks to her memoir, You’ll Never Blue Ball in This Town Again. Tickets are $20 to $45 with a two-drink minimum. If you’re a fan of the Broadway musical Rent, catch Adam Pascal (below) at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 20, and Friday, March 21. Pascal, who played the HIV-stricken Roger Davis in the original cast, is also a talented rock musician. He played Eddie in SLC Punk, and Jack Black’s nemesis, Theo, in School of Rock. Tickets are $20 to $45 with a two-drink minimum. The Copa Room, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.coparoomtickets.com.

The Purple Room in Palm Springs will be hosting an Academy Awards screening party at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, March 2. The screening will be part of The Judy Show, and there will be a “purple carpet,” mock paparazzi and a six-course dinner included with admission. Proceeds will go to the AIDS Assistance Program. Tickets are $75. The Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews