This is one of those small-scoped indie movies that has a certain
charm, but don't put too much weight on it. The delicate combination of
humor, romance, and pathos is fragile enough.
Kumail Nanjiani (basically playing himself) is a Pakistani-American
who's also a part-time Uber driver and a moderately successful stand-up
comic. He plays at a comedy
club in downtown Chicago, where his roommate and a couple of other friends
are also stand-ups. They all
struggle with the constant search for fresh material, and they strive
mightily to be both supportive of each other and honest with each other
(usually a standing contradiction).
Kumail's parents are traditional Pakistanis, who have immigrated to
the United States, but still stubbornly cling to some of their traditional
ways, including the strong expectation that Kumail will marry a nice
Muslim girl of Pakistani ethnicity. Since
their culture still practices arranged marriages, Kumail's parents are
constantly introducing him to suitable, eligible single women, who “just
happen to be dropping by the neighborhood.”
Kumail endures all this with no intention of ever following up,
because he's become thoroughly American in one respect:
he wants to pick his own girlfriends.
And he wants someone he's attracted to, not someone his parents
think might be acceptable for him.
Enter Emily (Zoe Kazan). She
happens to be in his audience one night, and after meeting her afterwards
he's immediately smitten. And
so is she. They do the modern
American thing----hook up immediately.
But then she says he doesn't need to bother to call her, and he
says that's fine with him. Except
neither, at that point, are saying what they're feeling.
And that, ultimately, is what causes their big rift----she hasn't
told him exactly how much she's started caring, and he hasn't told her
anything about his family's intractable expectations.
And then she gets sick. And
her best friend wants Kumail to know about it, and he dutifully goes to
the hospital, where he meets her parents, for the first time.
And they don't want anything to do with him.
Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter) have heard all about how
Kumail and Emily couldn't settle their differences, and they don't feel he
needs to be there now that'she's really sick.
But a funny thing happens to all these characters.
They have to adjust to new realities.
But somehow the bouyant comedic part of this movie keeps it all
from crashing of its own emotional weight.
We want to like Kumail because he's trying so hard, and because he
still has to occasionally deal with racist taunts from ignoramuses who are
unable or unwilling to distinguish different nationalities. (Though
there's a rebuttal irony to casting several Pakistani characters who are
actually of Indian origin.)
This one is both tender and funny, and as infuriatingly maladroit
as any dysfunctional family, no matter whose ethnicity.