Written by: Joe Lollo
Not every romantic relationship is the way a romantic comedy makes it seem – there will be fights, and there will be long fights. Michael Showalter’s The Lovebirds challenges this notion in an entertaining way, and much like his previous collaboration with Kumail Nanjiani, 2017’s The Big Sick, this film is fantastic in the way it combines genres to create a compelling story – albeit in a very different way.
The film draws you in immediately – by using a nostalgic pastiche of rom-com tropes to show the “meet-cute” and tender relationship beginnings between Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani), a documentary photographer working on a project he just can’t finish, and Leilani (Issa Rae), an advertising executive who loves reality TV and dreams to be on The Amazing Race. As time goes by, however, their relationship starts to have some rifts in it, due to the fear of commitment on both ends and increasing arguments over petty things. They need something to hold on to, which they find when a dirty cop known only as “Moustache” (Paul Sparks), whose real name is never revealed, takes their car to kill his former partner. Caught up in a murder mystery and accidentally framed by two pedestrians, Jibran and Leilani need to figure out how they can survive the night, leading to a rekindling of their relationship.
This is where the REAL fun begins in this film. As the story goes on, the film shines because it manages to raise the stakes in a believable way – the situations seem extraneous and realistic at the same time, and coupled with a combination of high-brow and slapstick humor it manages to be filled with fun. The stellar writing in the script makes use of the cast’s talents in these situations, able to prank viewers subtly as time goes on, and it makes them want to keep watching. An example is with the character of Edie (Anna Camp), who seems to be literally every Anna Camp character (think her roles in Pitch Perfect and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) when she’s first introduced but…you’ll just have to see for yourself.
There’s not much I can say without spoiling in this regard, but just know it involves cults – something made very apparent within the first half of the film. In hindsight, the combination of twist and foreshadowing work great in this film,The Lovebirds great, but it’s not a perfect film. There are some things The Big Sick and several other Showalter films did much better, especially the former’s focus on character relationships, but some things The Lovebirds did much better, too. As a pastiche – bordering on parody in some scenes – of “fun night turned into megaplex thriller” films like Game Night and Tag, it works extremely well, however, and that’s what you should appreciate it as.
Nanjiani and Rae’s chemistry save it from its lowest moments, and it’s refreshing to see a couple of colors shine together in a film as the main characters, without being stereotyped by the writers. It’s enjoyable, full of twists, and does enough with a genre that nobody really appreciates or enjoys that much. Given the current public health situation limiting our watching options, this is definitely one of the most worthwhile viewings if you have a Netflix account.