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If you like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, check out The Big Sick

These two charming indie rom coms have much more in common than the word “Big.”

By Lissa BayPublished 3 years ago 5 min read

By now, I hope every fan of sweet romantic comedies has had the pleasure of watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the 2002 sleeper hit that held the record for the highest-grossest independent film until 2016. The film, starring Nia Vardalos and John Corbett, instantly became something of a cultural phenomenon that spawned both a TV show and sequel.

It’s about Toula Portokalos, an unmarried 30-year-old woman whose large Greek family wants nothing more than for her to get married to a Greek man and start pumping out babies. But Toula wants to do more than just work at her parents’ restaurant, especially after she spots the handsome Ian Miller eating there.

She takes computer classes, gives herself a makeover, and gets a new job at her aunt’s travel agency. One day, she sees Ian again and they begin dating in secret. A vegetarian schoolteacher, he’s pretty much the cutest.

When the family discovers their relationship, they try to forbid it, setting Toula up on a series of bad dates with Greek men, but she and Ian continue seeing each other in secret until he asks her to marry him.

The rest of the film is about the cultural clash between Toula’s exuberant Greek family and Ian, along with his uptight WASP parents. It’s pretty funny and includes lots of memorable scenes. For instance, Aunt Voula discovering Ian doesn’t eat meat and saying it’s okay, she’ll make lamb. And Ian's mother giving Mrs. Portokalos a Bundt cake, who is both confounded by the pronunciation of the word "Bundt" and scandalized that it has a hole in it.

Honestly though, I prefer the first half. I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy and the first half sticks closer to the beats of one. Once they get engaged, our protagonists don’t have any serious conflicts and it becomes hijinks time. Which is super fun, and frankly, John Corbett is so stinking cute, I barely notice that the movie kind of switched genres on me.

I’m positive I’m not the only one who fell a little bit in love with Ian, as well as with this whole movie.

Have you seen The Big Sick?

Here’s another movie fans of My Big Fat Greek Wedding will love. It’s called The Big Sick (2017), and although the two films’ commonalities may not be immediately apparent, they’ve got quite a few—well beyond the word “Big” appearing in the title of both.

Starring Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan, it’s about a Pakistani-American man, Kumail, who pursues a career in stand-up comedy while his family, desperate to get him settled into an arranged marriage, attempts to set him up with one Pakistani woman after the other, who each give him a picture of themselves for him to keep on file.

At a comedy show one night, Kumail meets a white woman named Emily, and a one-night-stand progresses into something that appears more serious, but Kumail resists introducing her to his family. He secretly knows their relationship cannot continue—his family will never forgive him if he does not marry a Pakistani woman. But Kumail and Emily are simply adorable together, and the audience badly wants them to work out.

When Emily discovers Kumail’s box of photos of Pakistani women, the truth comes out that he doesn’t see a way for them to have a future together. She leaves him.

Days later, he receives a call from one of Emily’s friends telling him that she is in the hospital and needs someone to stay with her until it's time to drive her home. Once there, he gets roped into signing a consent form to put her into a medically-induced coma, despite his insistence that he is not her husband.

The rest of the film takes place mostly between Kumail and Emily’s parents, played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, as they get to know each other. They grow close, supporting each other through Emily’s long and mysterious illness, despite moments that arise out of Emily’s parents’ very white awkwardness with a Pakistani immigrant.

I won’t spoil the rest, but suffice it to say, in true rom com style, the film ends happily.

Major Similarities and Differences

Both of these “Big” movies are about an immigrant family who badly want their children to marry within their culture, and have to come to terms with it when they don’t. Toula and Kumail each pull away from their traditional upbringings to find a way to be a part of their family while also being part of mainstream American culture.

More importantly, though, both films are hilarious, heartwarming, and charming indie flicks that embrace and transcend the romantic comedy genre.

Beyond that, there are similarities that relate to the films themselves. For instance:

  • Both Nia Vardalos and Kumail Nanjiani wrote as well as starred in their respective films.
  • They both wrote their scripts based on their own true experiences with their real-life spouses and families.
  • Their real-life spouses were involved in making each film. Nanjiani’s wife, Emily V. Gordon, co-wrote The Big Sick and Vardalos’s husband (at the time), Ian Gomez, played Mike in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the fictional Ian’s best friend.
  • Nia Vardalos first performed My Big Fat Greek Wedding as a one-woman show. In the movie The Big Sick, Kumail performs a one-man show about his Pakistani family.
  • They both take a major turn halfway through that almost—almost—causes the film to no longer qualify as a romantic comedy.

The two films also have major differences.

  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding doesn’t give us any reason to doubt that our two lovebirds will end up together at the end. On the other hand, The Big Sick gives us every reason to doubt they can ever make it work.
  • Greek Wedding is nothing but fun. Big Sick has more pathos. For a large portion of the film, we're as worried about whether or not Emily will pull through as the characters are.
  • The relationship between Kumail and Emily’s parents is far more central to the film than Toula’s relationship with the Millers is.
  • The Big Sick really gives Kumail’s other suitors their due. One woman in particular that his parents set him up with, played by Vella Lovell (who I adored in the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), is particularly easy to visualize Kumail falling in love with. The other suiters in Greek Wedding never stood a chance.
  • The Big Sick, due to language, is not as nearly as kid-friendly as My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The former has an MPAA rating of R, whereas the latter was rated PG.

Despite these differences, I think the movies really complement each other, so if you like one, check the other out! If only because each one is incredibly adorable.

I’m a sucker for a cute couple. Both films give us that in spades.

Swoon! Be still my big fat sick heart!

If you thought this article had heart, give it a ❤️ right here on Vocal! To support the author's debilitating rom com rental habit, she greatly appreciates your tips. Thanks for reading, and have the kind of day that ends in grand gesture.


About the Creator

Lissa Bay

Lissa is a writer and nanny who lives in Oakland, California. She enjoys books, books, playing Disney songs on ukulele for kiddos, books, and hanging out with her deeply world-weary dog, Willow. And, oh yeah, also—get this: books.

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