Another casualty of the lockdown led the new rom-com from Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae to get snatched up by Netflix, and it doesn’t take long to realise that this was the best place for it. The Lovebirds, like its leading couple, kick things off well enough, with these two star-crossed sweethearts falling for each other the first morning after the night before, and it’s clear that there’s chemistry between Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani (Rae). Flash forward four years later though, and those sparks have sadly faded, leading the two to agree that parting ways might be the best way to go. Their break up gets even more awkward though when they find themselves caught up in a hit and run/murder that leads them fleeing the scene of the crime, and trying to find a way to clear their names before the law finds them.
So begins a wild night where a couple on the rocks get up to no good. Picking pieces from the likes of Date Night and Game Night (the latter has yet to give up the top spot) The Lovebirds sees our pair forced into torture of an equine variety and interrogating a frat bro for information. Both are easily the film’s stand out moments (and great if you haven’t seen the trailer), giving Rae and Nanjiani the chance to fire off one another. Leilani is the logic to the panic-stricken lunacy of Jabrani, both clashing perfectly when it comes to planning their numerous escapes out of tight situations, and failing miserably thanks to several wires being crossed at every turn.
As a double act, they work brilliantly together, having a significant blowout about nothing and then getting into sharp-tongued spats as the night goes on. The issue is that the film around them can’t get up to their speed and is keeping them far too restrained for this wild evening. These are two of the biggest talents out there at the moment, but The Lovebirds rarely lets them, or the supporting talent, spread their wings as much as they could.
Comedy nights out, while propelled by a winning duo, often have an array of colourful side characters to help keep us going ’til dawn, but steal the show if the opportunity presents itself. The disappointing factor with The Lovebirds is that there simply aren’t any of merit here when there absolutely should be. After the not-so-happy couple gets kidnapped during their antics, Jibran ends up taking one for the team, with Pitch Perfect’s Anna Camp and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Kyle Bornheimer as the ones dishing it out. Both talents in their own right, but here they’re used in what feels the same amount of time it took to write this sentence. The same can be said for the film’s looming threat of Paul Sparks as the catalyst for this wild night. The former Boardwalk Empire star is a wasted opportunity to be the comedic thorn in this couple’s side. Instead, we get a generic wrong’un that never really poses the threat that our leading couple are so scared of.
The biggest noticeable villain of the film though is a truly shocking one; continuity. There are scenes where elements are so glaringly apparent that you won’t be able to take your eyes off them. Be sure to keep a lookout on the couples changing diner order, as well as a baffling hostage situation near the films final act that literally undoes the scene entirely.
Even with the film being a little light on laughs (and attention to detail), with a lot of it being due to the limited numbers involved, The Lovebirds surprises the most by shining a spotlight on that awkward phase of a post-breakup period. There’s a sincere broken heart to heart where both accept what’s happened and say things that took too long to come to light. It’s a surprising spot where both Nanjiani and Rae’s rapport helps sensitive moments land just right, nailing the ‘rom’ part, but leaving the ‘com’ part to suffer in the end. Nunjiani and Rae are on fire, but the comedy is a little burnt out. While they’re a great pair, the course of The Lovebirds doesn’t run as smoothly as it should.
Directed by: Michael Showalter
Written by: Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall
Cast: Issa Rae, Kumail Nanjiani, Paul Sparks