Chicago

The Big Sick (2017)

Having Judd Apatow’s name appear next to a comedy, the likelihood is that it’s going to be quite good. His name features against some of the better comedies in recent memory, including Anchorman, Superbad and Step Brothers to name a few. Some of these films are a hive for intriguing, but genuine characters.

The Big Sick is the latest film to be attached with the Apatow name, but what I did not anticipate was the true story that revolved about the leading mans love life. Kumail Nanjiana wrote the romantic comedy story and told the story about him and his wife.

Kumail is a stand up comic, but survives day-to-day by being an Über driver around Chicago. As I mentioned, Apatow films often have genuine characters and that what Kumail is. As usual with this sort of comedy, it’s more wit than situation or slapstick comedy, and Kumail is the perfect vehicle for this as he is incredibly deadpan throughout the film.

Regardless of the situation he finds himself in, Kumail remains incredibly deadpan. His first meeting with Emily (Zoe Kazan) is brilliant as they have instant chemistry, which just emits from the screen. Of course, in true romantic comedic style, the newly-formed couple manage to enchant the screen and fill us with the joy of Kumail and Emily enjoying each others company.

But further to a classic romantic comedy trope, what goes up, must come down. They become infuriated with each other and break up, citing that they cannot do it anymore. They both abide, until Emily is placed in a medically induced coma to try and fight a strange infection and Kumail never leaves her side after learning this.

It’s not often that I am caught watching Romantic Comedies, truthfully because they are not my cup of tea, but The Big Sick has proved that there are still new avenues that can be explored in romantic comedies. Michael Showalter chose to explore the culture clash between Pakistani culture and a modern westernised culture that Kumail finds himself being pulled to and from.

Kumail consistently defies his parents wishes, from not praying to playing coy with the meetings with potential brides to appease his parents. This is all the whilst he keeps falling for Emily and their chemistry continues to light up the screen. The believability of this situation comes down to the acting that is on display from Kumail, Zoe and the rest of the cast.

And The Big Sick is incredibly honest for a romantic comedy, majority of the romantic comedies I have seen often fall into a certain farfetched approach to the story, but this one doesn’t. It has Emily acting skittish because she’s got to take a shit and doesn’t want to in Kumail’s house in an incredibly funny scene. But not only this, but the approach to Pakistani culture and recognising that there are people within those families that do not necessarily want to live that way.

On top of this, the film is incredibly funny. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents are excellent with their brashness toward Kumail, but also Kumail’s deadpan jokes. (his response to the 9/11 question had me in stitches I must admit). Showalter was very unapologetic it seemed as the film progressed, but that’s great because it’s opened up fresher avenues for the film to explore through the genre.

For a fresh approach to the romantic comedy genre, you’ll not find a better film than The Big Sick. It’s use of comedy throughout is brilliant, because it relies on wit, rather than situational/slapstick comedy, but the characters at the heart of this film are the winners. It’s because you genuinely want these characters to get together by the end of the film and as always with Apatow films they are genuine characters.

The Big Sick is probably not going to be the best film I have seen this year, but it’ll be the best romantic comedy for sure. It’ll probably include some of the best laughs and characters from films this year and it just shows that Apatow knows his comedies and characters. I still find myself chuckling occasionally at the jokes.

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

I hold no dear memories to the animated feature length film of Beauty and the Beast. I vaguely remember watching the animated version, but for the life of me could not remember the story at all and why the beast was cursed, so I may as well have approached it as an entirely brand-new film.

Because of the increase in the quality of CGI-films, Disney have started to adapt their much-loved animated films to live-action features. These reboots were really kick-started with the live-action remake of Cinderella. I didn’t catch that one, but I did catch Jon Favreau’s rather impressive The Jungle Book.

Carrying forward with the reimagining of the Disney Princesses, Bill Condon bought Belle’s story into the 21st century but entirely in live action. Having previous footings within musicals, it seemed like a wise choice to have Condon direct. (Whether Chicago and Dreamgirls are any good, I cannot comment)

Questions were asked about Emma Watson and how good she was going to be in the lead role of Belle, but as the film stretches through it’s runtime, I found the performance very mediocre. But it doesn’t stop there for the casting, as the furniture like Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) were found to be very mundane too. The standout performance would have to come from LeFou (Josh Gad) and Gaston (Luke Evans) as they also drove the scenes they featured in with their comedic gestures towards one another and the blatant narcissism.

What was impressive was the incredible set design throughout the film, from the incredibly fancy opening ball room dance before the curse is placed, to the small-village feel of Villeneuve as Belle dances around during her opening number. Condon managed to create a feeling on solitude within the echoey halls of this once-vibrant castle which was impressive.

Condon’s reimagining of Beauty and the Beast doesn’t seem to stray from the path that was laid out in the previous film. He does however, manage to add the spectacle that is enhanced with the advancements in film today, creatively shown by the ‘Be Our Guest’ musical number as the film enters an almost hallucinogenic area with this song and dance.

But between the big extravagant musical numbers and the story that builds the narrative the film eventually checks in at around 130 minutes and for me, this felt far too long. The inclusion of the musical numbers is fine, because it gives this modern-day Beauty and the Beast the ability to hit the nostalgic nerve, but there seems to be plenty of ’empty space’ throughout the film, offering no progressive for narrative nor characters.

For me, there did not seem to be that connection with the characters throughout the story and this could be down to the characters not pulling in great performances. Aside from the occasional laughs through LeFou and Gaston, there wasn’t a great deal of narrative for the characters to sink their teeth into. It’s very much a run-of-the-mill love story, but that can’t be helped as Condon’s reimagining seems to be very truthful to the original feature film.

That being said, there was a sense of enjoyment from the film. But I didn’t leave the cinema spellbound by the remake. Although the CGI effects were incredible and in some instances making the Beast more terrifying that he ought to be, the effects are not backed up by the characters. Everyone is lost in Gaston and LeFou’s shadows whilst they are on-screen, but they seem to drive home their scenes, thus making them more enjoyable characters to watch.

I didn’t go in with any sense of a connection to the original as a child and I’ve left indifferent. It was impressive with the set designs and the incredible scenery of this rural landscaped France. And the mix of comedy and musical worked in areas, but found the music too overpowering for the songs which left me wondering what they were singing half the time. Although it was enjoyable, I still found Favreau’s The Jungle Book to be the benchmark of these live-action remakes thus far.

(that’s until Guy Ritchie has he say with Aladdin)