What happens to your romantic comedy when one of the participants winds up in a coma? ‘The Big Sick’ does

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“The Big Sick” is a charming romantic comedy whose romance and comedy is abruptly interrupted by real life.

Comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani writes and stars in the true story of his courtship with Emily V. Gordon, which was thrown for a loop when Gordon (who also co-wrote the script) contracted a mysterious illness and fell into a coma.

Nanjiani (HBO’s “Silicon Valley”) plays a version of himself, a nerdy, “X-Files”-obsessed stand-up comedian named Kumail; he even uses some of the material from Nanjiani’s own act, including a bit about a heroin and Tylenol PM cocktail called “cheese.” He meets Emily (a radiant Zoe Kazan), their meet-cute is appropriately adorable, and “The Big Sick” is on its way to becoming a delightful love story whose biggest hurdles are cultural (Kumail’s mother, played by Zenobia Shroff, is forever trying to set him up with a Pakistani-American girl; his inability to break free from her wishes eventually causes a rift in his relationship with Emily).

Then that “Big Sick” comes along and wallops the story like a 300-pound linebacker. With Emily in the hospital, Kumail is forced into an awkward relationship with her parents (Holly Hunter and a stand-out Ray Romano), forged inside waiting rooms and at hospital bedsides. “The Big Sick” becomes as much about Kumail’s relationship with them as it is about Emily.

Directed by Michael Showalter (“My Name is Doris”), “The Big Sick” has a big heart and shows there are still corners left to explore in romantic comedies; it just takes someone willing to find them.

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

‘The Big Sick’

GRADE: B+

Rated R: for language including some sexual references

Running time: 124 minutes

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