The Lovebirds joins Game Night, Tag, and Date Night in a small but poignant group of films that are a bolstering of a specific sub-genre of thriller-comedies. These groups of films involve adult characters involved in high stake situations that are either dangerous via crime or dangerous via stupid decisions. The Lovebirds mostly falls in line with the Steve Carell and Tina Fey vehicle Date Night, following a couple who probably should have called the police as soon as possible.
The film follows Leilani (Issa Rae) and Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani), a couple that has just hit a rut in their four-year relationship. They argue about everything, but still have that cutesy banter that suggests that they are still very much in love. On their way to a friends gathering, they break up, and then hit a cyclist with their car. To make matters worse, some random dude jumps into their vehicle, chases down the cyclist, and runs him over. Leilani and Jibran then go on the run and come up with the genius plan to figure out what is going on.
Unlike the aforementioned films, The Lovebirds does not have an ensemble cast to share the weight of carrying the comedy. Instead Rae and Nanjiani are it, they are the sole providers of the comedy, romance, drama, and action (when there is any). They are the only two people we engage with for the entirety of the film with the exception of 3-4 characters that push the murder mystery plot forward. With that being the case, Rae and Nanjiani bring it. Their chemistry and banter is on point. They are always engaging as their characters make one befuddling decision after another. As the titular characters, Rae and Nanjiani are a winning combination imbuing their roles with a ton of heart and comedy that will be sure to light up your day. Seriously, their respective smiles are infections.
Early in the film Leilani suggests the two of them go on a reality competition show, which Jibran objects to. It says a lot about how this film turned out that the premise of this bickering couple on that particular show is the movie The Lovebirds should have been. Screenwriters Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall, and Martin Gero and director Michael Showalter had a good concept with great actors in the lead roles, but somehow fumbled.
Although, Rae and Nanjiani are incredibly compelling and are enough to watch this film for, there isn’t a lot of story, intrigue, or action to warrant multiple rewatches. For instance, Game Night has a genuinely interesting game that the characters are all players in, and is aided by the filmmakers crafting the film around that scenario. Tag has a great deal of physical comedy with man-babies playing an epic game of tag, although lacking in the story it will get a ton of laughs out of you. It too had a director who tailored the film-making to that premise. The Lovebirds only has Rae and Nanjiani talking and bantering. Often the murder mystery is left on the back burner so the two can figure out their relationship. Which is fine to watch, however, it doesn’t help that the film-making is at best tepid in places when needed a little more. Often the movie is indistinguishable from your average TV movie, before streaming services kicked it up a notch with the production value.
Our leads have a ton of chemistry and are a delight to watch, and I cannot stress how funny the two are. It wouldn’t have hurt to have some supporting players who are equally gifted comedians, because as engaging as Rae and Nananji are they do run out of gas by the end. However, laughs are to be had from beginning to end, because they are just that good. The Lovebirds would have been such a winner if everything else around Rae and Nanjiani was as good as they are.
The Lovebirds is available to stream on Netflix starting May 22
by Ferdosa Abdi
Ferdosa (she/her) is a lifetime student of cinema. Three of her current favourite films are Addams Family Values, Cinderella (2015), and Emma. (2020). On Twitter, you can see her support for women-led cinema, her ongoing love/hate relationship with Disney, her totally healthy obsession with Eva Green, and her great admiration for Guillermo del Toro.