Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.


The Big Sick – A Real Life Romance is Funny and Charming


Fans of HBO’s Silicon Valley won’t want to miss Kumail Nanjiani’s performance in The Big Sick, a romantic comedy based on his real life relationship with Emily V. Gordon. If you’re not familiar with Kumail’s portrayal of computer geek Dinesh Chugtai, then that’s even more reason to see the film. Gordon, now Kumail’s wife, shares writing credit with her husband and is played in the film by the elfin Zoe Kazan.

Coming from a strict Pakistani family, Kumail is expected, like his brother, Naveed (Adeel Aktar), to agree to an arranged marriage. Each dinner with his parents finds a young Pakistani woman dropping in “unexpectedly.” Kumail’s mother, Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff) is a force, relentless in her efforts to manage her son’s life. Kumail’s father, Azmat (Anupam Kher), is less aggressive, but goes along with his wife’s plan. When Kumail falls in love with Emily, he knows that he risks being cut off from his family.

Holly Hunter and Ray Romano

Kumail is already on thin ice with his parents, having defied their wishes that he become a doctor. Instead, he struggles to make it as a stand up comic, working the clubs at night, and driving an Uber during the day. He meets Emily in the club after one of his sets and, despite their cultural differences, the attraction is immediate. Emily wants him to meet her parents, but Kumail resists the idea that she should meet his. Emily discovers a wooden box where he has been tossing photographs of all those Pakistani women he’s met, and she understands that their relationship has little chance to succeed. A tearful breakup follows, Kumail torn between the woman he loves and the family he doesn’t want to lose.

When Emily falls seriously ill, Kumail goes to the hospital to see her. The doctors need someone’s signature in order to place Emily in a medically-induced coma while they figure out how to treat the infection that is ravaging her body. Without her parents there, Kumail signs as her husband.

Emily’s parents, Beth and Terry, soon show up – terrific performances by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. Beth knows about the breakup and both she and Terry are initially rude to Kumail. He’s relentless, however, showing up day after day to sit at Emily’s bedside. Soon the trio  begins to bond. Attending one of Kumail’s routines at the club, Beth mixes it up with a patron who heckles Kumail because he’s a Muslim.

                           Aidy Bryant, Bo Turnham, and Kurt Braunohler 

After Emily wakes up, however, the young woman tells Kumail she never wants to see him again. He makes several attempts to change her mind, to no avail. Of course we know, that they will ultimately get together. How and where is the key.

Produced by Judd Apatow and directed by one of Kumail’s longtime friends, Michael Showalter, The Big Sick (despite that unfortunate title), is a very funny, warm-hearted film, one that should do well with audiences looking for an alternative to those disaster and superhero films that dominate screens during the summer months. Kumail’s talents as a comic, his delivery and timing, are no surprise to those who watch Silicon Valley. Kumail is part of an ensemble on that show. Here he breaks out as a solo performer, particularly when doing his standup act. His fellow comics, played by SNL’s Aidy Bryant, Bo Burnham, and Kurt Braunohler, deliver humorous standup routines. But it’s the angst each displays off stage that underlines the difficulties of what it takes to make it in a crowded field.

Zoe Kazan

Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of famed director Elia Kazan, lights up the screen as Emily. She can deliver a funny line as cleverly as Kumail. If the real life Emily is as charming and witty as portrayed here by Zoe (and since Emily co-wrote the script, we assume she is), then it’s easy to see how these two culturally different but comically similar people fell in love.

The Big Sick opens in New York and Los Angeles on June 23, nationwide on July 14, 2017.

Photos by Nicole Rivelli courtesy of Amazon Films.

Notorious – The Drama Behind Cable News


Wendy Walker spent 32 years at CNN, 18 of those as the senior executive producer for Larry King Live. Criminal defense attorney, Mark Geragos, worked with Walker serving as a consultant. The two are now executive producers of the new ABC drama, Notorious, a behind the scenes look at what goes into producing a cable news show.

For news junkies who miss HBO’s The Newsroom, Notorious, might help curb those cravings. The ego-driven personalities on and off the set yield soap-opera worthy story lines. (Just consider the recent developments at Fox News.) Piper Perabo plays Julia George, a “powerhouse” who produces the Megan Kelly-like talk show, Louise Herrick Live. Daniel Sunjata plays Jake Gregorian, a high-profile defense attorney who often winds up in a chair being grilled by Herrick. Yet what viewers see is only part of the story. George and Gregorian are very much a team, massaging and managing the news for both their benefits. When one of Gregorian’s clients is found at a murder scene, his hands covered in blood, the duo will find events spiraling out of control. Can they trust each other? Stay tuned.

Notorious benefits from a strong cast. Perabo doesn’t rely on the athletic moves she displayed as CIA agent Annie Walker in USA’s Covert Affairs. George’s power comes from the information that she possesses. (When she discovers her boyfriend, an ambitious judge, has been visiting prostitutes, she doesn’t just break up with him. She puts him on notice that she’ll hold onto that nugget until she finds a good time to use it, a time bomb if there ever was one.)


Daniel Sunjata and J. August Richards (Photo credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal)

Sunjata has an impressive resume that includes major roles on FX’s Rescue Me and USA’s Graceland. As Gregorian, he exudes the confidence and arrogance befitting an attorney who boasts a star-stunned list of clients. Gregorian and George are both used to being in control. There’s a sexual tension in their relationship which, we assume, will also be part and parcel of the show’s theme.

Kate Jennings Grant (Herrick), who has a long list of TV and film credits, recently won rave reviews for her performance in the Broadway revival of Noises Off. On set, Herrick is all business, asking the hard questions, never letting a guest off the hook. Off set, she’s often found in her dressing room canoodling with her latest boy toy. Jennings Grant manages both sides of her character with ease. She’s a delight to watch.


Kate Jennings Grant (Photo credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal)

The supporting cast is also strong. J. August Richards plays Bradley, Gregorian’s brother and law partner, who takes the lead in the pilot’s subplot, a blackmail scheme against one of the firm’s clients. Jake may be the face of Gregorian & Gregorian, but Bradley is the one who keeps the wheels turning. Sepideh Moafi is Julia’s assistant, Megan Byrd, who also watches out for her boss’s welfare. Ryan Guzman plays fresh-faced Ryan Mills, an intern who got the job because his father is head of the network, but is eager to prove himself and impress Julia. His first move involves tricking Jake’s associate, Ella Benjamin (Aimeé Teegarden). She’s initially angry, but who can resist that fresh face?

Notorious follows the trend of many shows these days where an entire season is devoted to solving one crime. (TNT’s Murder in the First has done that for three seasons.) Anthology shows demand commitment on the part of the viewer. But once that viewer is hooked, the ratings follow. All things considered, Notorious has cast out a strong line.

Notorious premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday, September 22, 2016, on ABC.

Top: Piper Perabo and  Sepideh Moafi, Credit: ABC/Eli Joshua Ade

The Man Who Knew Infinity – Is Genius a Gift from God?


All I wanted was to sing to God. He gave me that longing… and then made me mute. Why? Tell me that. If He didn’t want me to praise him with music, why implant the desire? Like a lust in my body! And then deny me the talent? Antonio Salieri in Amadeus

What makes a genius? Are these individuals born? The result of excellent schools and diligent parents? Or does God bestow on certain people exceptional talents? In Amadeus, Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham in his Oscar-winning role), railed against the creator for choosing to bless not him but Mozart with the enviable ability to create music that touched the soul.

In The Man Who Knew Infinity, Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel in a multifaceted performance), is a genius in another field, mathematical formulas gushing forth impressing the best analytical minds at Cambridge. When asked by his mentor, professor G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), where that inspiration comes from, Ramanujan says from God. Hardy, an atheist, finds it hard to accept that explanation. But what Ramamujan manages to put on paper continues to astound and certainly invites the idea that somehow a deity is involved.

The film takes some liberties from the true story upon which it is based. Ramanujan, an Indian from Madras (now Chennai), had little formal education. Without being able to write on paper, a luxury in his impoverished village, Ramanujan writes his formulas in the few books he possesses as well as with chalk on stones in the temple. Needing to support his wife and mother, he lands a job as an accountant with a condescending British boss (Stephen Fry, in a fleeting appearance), but continues his entreaties to be published by writing to Hardy at Cambridge. Intrigued by the formulas Ramanujan sends, Hardy invites him to England. Thus begins a relationship that will weather discrimination, numerous confrontations with the Cambridge hierarchy, as well as the misery that descends on the country during World War I. Alone in a foreign country, Ramanujan battles loneliness by immersing himself in his work. His letters to his wife, Janaki (Devika Bhise), are intercepted by his mother who resents his marriage. When Ramanujan falls ill with tuberculosis, he believes he has been abandoned by his family with no one but Hardy to come to his aid.

Infinity2Hardy pushes Ramanujan to show proof of his work, a roadmap explaining how he arrives at his formulas. But Ramanujan’s mind doesn’t work that way. (Any math student who has been chided by a teacher to show the steps rather than just write down the obvious answer will understand Ramanujan’s situation.) Hardy, however, understands the academic hurdles Ramanujan must clear in order to be accepted. In the end, he does just that becoming the second Indian to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and the first Indian Fellow at Trinity. Even today, his calculations are seen as groundbreaking, influencing not only computer development and economics but also the study of black holes.

Patel, whom we know from a string of hits – Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel, as well as HBO’s Newsroom – tackles a more serious role here, portraying Ramanujan’s determination to have the world pay attention to his formulas. But he also displays the mathematician’s vulnerable side. While he’s made it to Cambridge, he’s not accepted by either the students or the professors, spending  solitary days and nights in his room, cooking his own inedible meat-free meals. When the Cambridge green is taken over by tents sheltering injured soldiers, Ramanujan finds himself a target by those who resent his presence.

As Hardy, Irons is an academic with a cause. Hardy plays by the rules, but isn’t afraid to thwart those rules for Ramanujan recognizing the young man’s talents. Irons benefits with support from Toby Jones as J.E. Littlewood and Jeremy Northman as Bertrand Russell. The trio form an alliance to advance Ramanujan’s cause.

Films focusing on math  – A Beautiful Mind and The Imitation Game – have defied the odds and done well with theater audiences. The Man who Knew Infinity may not rise to that level, particularly in the run up to summer movies when superheroes dominate. Yet geniuses are superheroes, brilliant minds that raise the bar and continue to wield influence. Chances are after seeing this film, you will find ourself launching into discussions about the genius factor and which individuals have earned that distinction.

The Man Who Knew Infinity opens nationwide May 6, 2016.