Friday, July 14, 2017

In The Area of Critical Commentary - "The Big Sick" and "In The Heights"

Everywhere you look, "The Big Sick" is getting four star reviews from critics all over the country.  Actor/comedian Kumail Nanjiani, a Pakistani-American, plays Kumail Nanjiani, a Pakistani-American trying to make it as a stand-up comedian in Chicago.  While doing his set one night, he is gently heckled by audience member Emily Gordon.  The meet afterward, have a one night hook-up, but soon become romantically involved and fall in love.  Meanwhile, Kumail's traditional Pakistani family disapproves of his choice of profession (they want him to go to law school), and are constantly trying to get him into an arranged marriage with a Pakistani woman.

Kumail and Emily have a fight and break up, then Emily comes down with a mysterious illness that forces doctors to put her into an induced coma as they struggle to find a cure for her illness.  This brings Emily's parents into the picture and another set of complications for Kumail.

Doesn't sound like the stuff of your typical romantic comedy, but this movie is truly funny while it raises important questions about cultural values, prejudices, and just what this crazy thing called love is all about.

The movie was written by Nanjiani and his real life wife, Emily Gordon.  Yep, that is the name of the character in the movie, so this is somewhat autobiographical, although I do not believe that the real-life Emily experienced a "big sick" in her own life.  Nanjiani is quite good in the movie as is Zoe Kazan as Emily (Fun Fact: Ms. Kazan is the granddaughter of Oscar winning director Elia Kazan), and then there are Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, who play Emily's parents.  I won't say that they steal the show here, they don't, but they are terrific in their roles.  I was especially surprised by Romano, who I still see as a TV sitcom star.  He was wonderful in this.  

Lots of professional critics are calling "The Big Sick" the best movie of the year, and they may well be correct. You will laugh and you will cry, and if someone you love has ever been seriously ill, this will especially touch you.   Do not miss it.

Four Stars all the way from The Grandstander.

(CORRECTION: A few days after I wrote this entry, I learned that the real life Emily Gordon did, indeed, have a mysterious illness that caused her to be in a medically induced coma, very much like Emily in the movie.  Truth is stranger than fiction.)


Last night we made what will probably be, sadly, our only visit to the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera this year to see Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In The Heights".  This was the first Broadway musical production for Miranda, and it was the winner of four Tony Awards, and it certainly presaged Miranda's epic that was to come, "Hamilton".

It was a wonderful show with high energy singing and dancing, music that included rap, hip-hop, and salsa, as well as traditional Broadway-type ballads and production numbers.  As always, the CLO's production was top notch.

This is the kind of show that will no doubt be touring forever, and it is already being performed by high schools across the land.  It is one that you should try to see at some point in your theater going life.

Four stars.

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