The unfortunate title of Michael Showalter's ("The Baxter") latest film sounds more like the day-after sequel to "The Hangover" or an early Judd Apatow gross-out film (Apatow is one of the producers, after all) than a romantic comedy. But the malady it refers to is not the result of binge drinking the night before; it's adult-onset Still’s disease, a rare inflammatory syndrome that puts one of the leads in an induced coma. Sounds romantic, doesn't it?
The script, written by Kumail Nanjiani (“Silicon Valley") and Emily V. Gordon, is based on events from their own budding romance—the two have been married for a decade. Nanjiani plays Kumail, the fictionalized version of himself, while Emily Kazan, frequently cast as a bit simple, takes on the role of Emily, still naïve but with more edge.
Inspired by the real-life romance of the real-life Nanjiani and Gordon, the relationship, showcased in the first 30 minutes or so of the movie, is a delight to watch as it builds momentum. The two meet when Emily heckles Kumail's act, and after the initial hookup keep up the pretense that neither wants to be in a relationship, all while they continue to contrive reasons to get together. In what might be the funniest gag in the movie, featured in the trailer, of course, Emily tries to escape spending more time with Kumail by requesting an Uber, but it turns out that Kumail is her driver.
Once we're introduced to Emily's parents, played by the ever-formidable Holly Hunter and a sympathetic Ray Romano, we realize there's no mystery behind Emily's likable charm. Having flown from North Carolina to Chicago to be at the bedside of their comatose daughter, the two pick up the baton of romance, allowing the sharp edges of their worry and frustration to ricochet off each other and those around them.
Less poignant are the scenes that feature Kumail's parents (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) and their repeated attempts to interest their son in an arranged marriage. Now that consenting adults can have sex in their on-screen relationships, the romantic comedy has suffered from a lack of barriers to getting together. Recently, cultural differences have provided good break-up material, but as we witnessed in this year's breakout horror film, "Get Out," their more effective use is when they can cause bodily harm.
The joke that is the procession of young Muslim woman invited to drop in during family dinner isn't as funny as it's played to be when you consider the situation from their point of view. The talented actor Vella Lovell is particularly endearing as someone willing to settle for the slightest twinge of chemistry so she can stop participating in the process, revealing a maturity beyond her years. That's something that Kumail, who retreats from the truth in all his relationships, just doesn't possess.