Review: The Lovebirds (2020)

The Lovebirds. Directed by Michael Showalter. Netflix, 2020.

Premiere Impressions

            One of the first, and therefore most publicized, theatrical casualties of the ongoing pandemic (SERIOUSLY, WEAR A MASK), Paramount’s The Lovebirds, is now streaming on Netflix, just over a month after its intended wide-release. Directed by the Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris, The Big Sick) the film settles in comfortably to the streaming service. The Lovebirds is a predictable, but fun film to watch at home.

            On their way to a dinner party, Leilani (Issa Rae) and Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) realize that their relationship has reached its end. Distracted, they accidently hit a biker, who turns out to be the target of a murderer. Not wanting to be framed for the biker’s death, the couple flee the scene, embarking on a murder mystery journey to clear their names before the cops find them.

            As the premise indicates, The Lovebirds puts an action-adventure spin on the romantic comedy, very reminiscent of films like Date Night (2010). Unsurprisingly, there are not really any shockers to be had in the plotline. If you are hoping for any surprising twists and turns, The Lovebirds—and romantic comedies in general—are not for you. That does not mean there is not any fun to be had along the way. From the beginning, even though Leilani and Jibran are supposed to be a couple on the verge of break-up, the two characters are very relatable. They argue about insignificant things (the Amazing Race banter is full of laughs), play devil’s advocate, and refuse to let the little things go. Look at any couple you know – it’s them! The relatable characters more than make up for the lack of innovation and provide a great identifiable pair to root for on their journey.

            The entire film rests on the shoulders of its two leads, and, you know what, it works. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani are a wonderfully matched comic duo. The banter, clearly some of which was improvised, are where the biggest laughs come from. The slapstick, action-oriented comedy does not work as well, but the dialogue between Rae and Nanjiani puts in overtime. There were many moments that I full on cackled, many of which came from Rae’s delivery. If anything, The Lovebirds provides even more evidence that every comedy should star Issa Rae.

Post-Screening Snippets

  • “Documentaries are just reality TV shows that no one watches” – you’re not wrong, Issa Rae
  • I enjoy a brief Anna Camp appearance, but she is definitely miscast in her role
  • It does seem odd that a movie that mentions its New Orleans setting often does not engage with the context of the setting.
  • “Who did the let the dogs out?” – you’re still not wrong, Issa Rae

The Final Tea

            There is not a lot thematically going on in The Lovebirds. There are some vague references to social injustice, specifically that of police violence inflicted upon people of color, but it does not necessarily add up to any strong statement. More than anything, the idea of injustice really serves as comedic material for Rae, rather than for the film to argue anything. That does not mean that it is not an enjoyable, if familiar, showcase for two hilarious performers, though. At under ninety minutes, the movie is a breezy, giggle-filled way to enjoy an afternoon.


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