For ‘The Big Sick,’ healthy box office sends a big message

(CNN)Despite only opening in limited release, “The Big Sick” is enjoying some big attention for its box office gross over the weekend.

While still well below the per-theater averages that last year’s Oscar contenders “La La Land” and “Moonlight” saw during their limited releases ($176,221 and $100,519, respectively), “The Big Sick’s” performance is still impressive, especially considering the film was up against the fifth installment of big-budget blockbuster franchise “Transformers,” which debuted to a new franchise low, and the enduring “Wonder Woman.”
Leading up to its release, “The Big Sick” was showered with positive reviews, which praised the film’s star and co-writer Nanjiani for bringing the personal, unconventional love story to the screen. (Nanjiani’s real-life courtship with eventual wife Emily V. Gordon, who also co-wrote the film, was the inspiration for the story.)
    Much like how “Moonlight’s” word-of-mouth success and eventual Academy Award win made a strong statement about the hunger for more nuanced stories about the African American experience, “The Big Sick” stands to make a case for the reinvention of a genre starved for inclusivity.
    In film, Nanjiani’s character falls for a girl named Emily but a messy breakup in part brought on by a culture clash threatens their happy ending — as does the fact that Emily suddenly and mysteriously falls gravely ill.
    The movie explores Nanjiani’s character’s struggle with his traditional Pakistani Muslim family’s expectations and Emily’s parents’ misconceptions.
    Ray Romano and Holly Hunter play Emily’s parents.
    “What’s weird is that it wasn’t current when he pitched it to me four years ago,” executive producer Judd Apatow told CNN in a recent interview. “It became current later.”
    Director Michael Showalter and Co. didn’t aim to reinvent the rom-com wheel with “The Big Sick.” They set out to tell a relatable tale about complicated love. But at the same time, it would be oversimplifying the film to ignore the statements about culture and religion woven into its fabric.
    “That’s the magic of this movie,” Romano told CNN. “The message or lesson is there but [the movie is] just about relationships and love and family. That’s all it is. That, I think, brings it home even more — how it transcends all this cultural difference and everything.”
    Showalter, above all, wanted to do the characters justice.
    “We wanted to show this family as they are,” he said. “We have a lot of stereotypes about what this culture might be in terms of Muslims or immigrants, and we just wanted to be as even handed as we possibly could and show each character as fully developed as they could be — in the positive and the negative.”
    He added: “Everyone in this movie is a human being trying to do their best, trying to figure out how they want to be in this country, what choices they want to make, and we wanted to show the full range of that.”
    “The Big Sick” opens wide on July 14.
    CNN’s Rick Damigella contributed to this report.

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