Let the bidding begin. Going in, director Michael Showalter’s “The Big Sick” was pegged as the big acquisition title for this year’s Sundance Film Festival and based on the very warm reception it received at tonight’s premiere, that’s the case. It premiered at the sold-out Eccles Theater and earned a number of big laughs from an audience that also appeared to be equally engaged in the film’s heartfelt drama.
Represented were top executives from Magnolia, Neon, Bleecker, IFC, CBS Films, Roadside Attractions, Amazon, Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, Netflix and A24. With 15 minutes left in the movie, executives were climbing out of their seats and conferring in the back of the theater and in the lobby.
The story is based on the co-writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon’s real-life relationship. After falling in love, the couple, (portrayed by Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan) break up because Kumail refuses to tell his traditional Muslim Pakistani family he is dating a white girl. The story takes a turn when Emily’s becomes very ill and is put into a coma. Under the frightening circumstances of waiting for the doctors to figure out how to treat her mystery illness, Kumail spends a number of intense days getting to know Emily’s parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) and comes to some important realizations about his own family.
Nanjiani and Gordon during the post-film Q&A told the audience that much of the movie’s detail comes from their real-life story. What they left out for the movie was that they got married three months after Gordon emerged from the coma. (They thought that part was too unbelievable.)
Producer Judd Apatow said that despite so much of the detail coming from the couple’s own story, the two co-writers worked “full time” for three years on the script getting the balance right between humor and drama.
The Q&A made it clear that when the film does sell, the couple’s humorous and honest banter will be an enormous asset to the film’s distributors. Asked about their current situation with their families, the two say they’ve been married for 10 years and and most issues were resolved years ago. As to how they became resolved, Gordon joked,”Lots of fucked-up dinners. That’s my favorite line in the movie.”