Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Apatow Productions, FilmNation Entertainment, Story Ink. USA, 2017. Screenplay by Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani. Cinematography by Brian Burgoyne. Produced by Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel. Music by Michael Andrews. Production Design by Brandon Tonner-Connolly. Costume Design by Sarah Mae Burton. Film Editing by Robert Nassau. Academy Awards 2017. Gotham Awards 2017
Real-life couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon have written a screenplay that mines their experiences meeting, falling in love and dealing with their respective families during a difficult trial for their relationship, that of Gordon’s nearly dying from a rare disease that doctors took a very long time to diagnose. Nanjiani plays a close approximation of himself, a stand-up comedian trying to make it in show business who is heckled by a pretty grad student (Zoe Kazan filling in for Gordon) during a performance and it sparks a delightful romance with its fair share of ups and downs. They break up when she realizes that he hasn’t told his traditional Pakistani family about their very serious relationship, and before they can consider any resolution, are separated by her being admitted to the hospital with what seems like a very bad case of the flu but turns into her going into a coma. The doctors can’t figure out what is making her ill and she seems to be declining, bringing Kazan’s parents (Ray Romano, Holly Hunter, both terrific) to New York City and placing them by their daughter’s side while having to deal with the guy that they know full well has disappointed her. The scenes in which Nanjiani and Hunter get to know each other are the film’s best, giving a fresh spin to a film that never feels like a traditional or tired romantic comedy but, thanks to her anxiety and Romano’s world-weary warmth, make the film hit very deep. Giving that side of the story that much weight, though, unfortunately means leaving Nanjiani’s family behind, indulging in the tired trope of the ethnic guy held back from the freedom of the white world by two-dimensional parents (why the star and co-writer is so hard on his mom is hard to understand). Kazan is at her most charming, and Aidy Bryant and Kurt Braunohler have wonderful scenes as Nanjiani’s fellow comics.