Directed By Michael Showalter
Starring – Issa Rae, Kumail Nanjiani, Anna Camp
The Plot – A couple (Rae and Nanjiani) experiences a defining moment in their relationship when they are unintentionally embroiled in a murder mystery. As their journey to clear their names takes them from one extreme ,and hilarious, circumstance to the next, they must figure out how they, and their relationship, can survive the night.
Rated R for sexual content, adult language throughout and some violence
– Elevating the material. Without the impeccable chemistry of Rae and Nanjiani meant to steer the otherwise directionless screenplay, “The Lovebirds” would be heartbroken, but as it stands their performances both comically, romantically, and even dramatically hold up, and bring forth some beneficial surprises that help each of them break typecast. For Rae, it’s the warm smile and long-winded diatribes that give her a future as a leading lady, but beyond those it’s the way that Leilani feels unlike anything that she has commanded to this point, by offering up an abundance of heart to coincide with her already sharp comic timing. For Nanjiani, the usual jokester is still there, but as Jibran, it’s more of the take charge approach that his roles in “Stuber” and “The Big Sick” didn’t rely on as heavily, better helping illustrate a leading man whose reach far exceeds those of just comedy that have thus far made him a household name. Nanjiani, in his pre-MCU makeover stage, buffs up for a role that helps him bring the steam in moments of shirtless tension between he and Rae, but also allows a transformation physically from within him that proves he’s dedicated to whatever the role requires. Everything about their dynamic resonates soundly throughout the picture, and immerses us into the rocky relationship of a couple who we are legitimately interested in and supporting throughout the duration of the film.
– Comic muscle. “The Lovebirds” succeeds at being more over the top satirically than conventional romantic comedies are privy to, but the majority of the intended material comfortably reaches its target destination with a combination of commitment by its two leads, as well as an abundance of material that rarely if ever repeats itself. Nanjiani’s dry delivery is key here, echoing the most absurd lines of dialogue and circumstance to play so vibrantly across his everyman face that makes him the ideal straight man in these scenario’s. Are there more moments of improvisation than I would like, stretching scenes far longer than they rightfully should be? Absolutely. These are comedians after all. However, the Eighty-Two minute run time keeps this from ever feeling like something it rightfully shouldn’t in length, and the cherished R-rating keeps the material delightfully adult without unnecessarily stretching the limits to do so. It’s really a full proof date movie, in that you’ll laugh and love along with these unlucky characters.
– Unusual antagonist. For the record, there is one for the movie, but the lack of attention paid to such a character reminds us that this guy isn’t the prime obstacle that our two star-crossed lovers should be focused towards. Instead, it’s really the evolution of their relationship, both in its highs and lows, that plays parallel to the events happening across the one-night setting, and tests them in ways that even four years of being together has yet to bring forth. Because of such, their pasts with all of their neurosis’s towards one another, plays the key contributor here, popping up occasionally to remind each of them what they dislike about each other, all the while escaping from this deranged madman who wants both of them dead. It conflicts them in a way that preserves importance to their dynamic, all the while maintaining a claustrophobic feeling of storytelling that affords very few supporting characters moving in and out of frame to take away from the stakes.
– Enriched in realism. Easily the highlight of the movie for me, is the movie’s romantic layer, which brings forth authentication in the form of a relationship that ages and plays off naturally in its unraveling. Aside from the pivotal chemistry between Nanjiani and Rae that I previously mentioned, it’s the way the dialogue between doesn’t feel glossed over for screenplay print, emulating in a way that matures and transitions like a couple who continuously poke and prod at one another to get the mental edge. In addition to this, it’s the way that four years together has done neither of them any favors. This reduces them to take for granted what is important in each of their lives, and is only made evident to them once they intercept how other people interpret them as being this perfect couple. The set-up is very formulaic and exceptionally predictable, but the steps taken in exposition between them to flesh this relationship out accordingly not only makes this a believable union, but also one whose romantic elements make the comedy all the more valuable because it creates a layer of depth that is constantly building when that humor doesn’t always measure up.
– Geographical pulse. “The Lovebirds” is set primarily in New Orleans, Louisiana, and that setting combined with some unusual avenues that the story takes, better fleshes out the familiarity of the Big Easy in a way that makes it practically a character of its own within this movie. Nothing is heavily imbedded, but rather inserted in a way that subtly reminds us of its southern roots. For one, the pivotal landmarks that movie and out of frame are presented in the background of what’s transpiring in the foreground between our couple. Aside from this, it’s the frequency of the double-decker ranches and festive atmospheres of the various transportation systems that they take that intoxicates us, and better illustrates what about this place that Showalter decided to capture so candidly. It conjures up a distinct vibe with its setting that views NOLA in a way very few other films have captured, and that’s one that supplants a lot of love for the rebuilt city that has flourished in the past fifteen years since Hurricane Katrina.
– The perfect storm. Say what you will about the current pandemic plaguing our nation, but I feel like Paramount’s decision to sell this to Netflix, and release on a straight-to-streaming platform is one that will pay off immensely for the integrity of the movie. As evidenced in this review, there’s nothing that is rivetingly ground-breaking or even remotely deviated from the familiarity of the one-night-out subgenre that romantic comedies are featuring more so these days. However, the laughs are solid, and the unmistakable charm of Rae and Nanjiani makes a watch more justified on streaming than it ever would in theaters, making my grade slightly easier on a well-intentioned, good-natured time-burner that rarely ever overstayed its welcome. It’s the definition of streaming cinema in 2020, and will inevitably be seen by more people because of this decision than it ever would’ve playing for four pointless weeks on the silver screen.
– Contradictive pacing. This is a film that barely clocks in at the bare minimum requirement of big screen presentations, but also one that alienates such breezy progression with a series of scenes that can’t resist selling too much of a good thing. It was previously mentioned that Nanjiani and Rae improvise a little bit too much, and this wouldn’t be a problem if what they were saying added to the gag that it tiptoes around, but the longer these scenes persist, the more you feel the momentum of the scene stalling out, with a hammered-home intention spoon-fed forcefully like we haven’t been paying attention. To say that there were scenes that grinded the movie’s pacing to a halt is a dramatic understatement, so I will say that even at Eighty-Two minutes of ample filmmaking, there is a good fifteen minutes of stretched material that would be better left suited for a deleted scenes feature on a Blu-ray where the special features are twice as long as the movie they are featured in.
– Underwhelming action sequences. To be fair, there are only two in the film. However, the evidence shows that Showalter feels entirely out of his element when capturing some high-octane intensity that upstarts the film’s central plot. The editing here is stilted at best, calling upon far too many cuts and contradicting angles between transitions to feel like one smooth execution that we the audience competently interpret. Likewise, some of the camera and actor placements during scenes of physicality clearly make it evident that jabs and kicks had to be audibly enhanced for how none of it looks even remotely believable. This sacrifices the few moments in the film where vulnerability and urgency collide on a crash course of uncertainty, and when those moments are executed in a way that leaves more to be desired, it undersells the climax dramatically, giving this movie very few thrills for the males seeking something to counteract the occasional mushiness.
– Stretched convenience. There is a twist to this movie, that once you know what it entails does require some strong suspension of disbelief on the audience who have followed it faithfully to this point. For my money, that required establishing this as a world with no phone messages, no business or street cameras, no news-briefings, no communication, and even no friends to steer this group in a direction of clarity that these two protagonists are constantly running away from. What’s even worse is this twist completely removes any ounce of heft or consequences from this story and this couple that made it even remotely intriguing in the first place, and wraps us up with a third act that couldn’t be any more inconsequential if it halted progress with fifteen minutes left in the film. It practically does that anyway, and alludes to the film’s biggest adversity that it can never overcome; predictability.
– One-dimensional. Speaking of predictability, “The Lovebirds” saddles itself with a mundane screenplay that never evolves or distorts perception in a way that gives this story and its characters an ounce of evolutional depth. It starts when you compare the familiarity of its plot to better movies like “Game Night” or “Date Night”, and is amplified further by a healthy helping of social commentary involving minorities being falsely accused that is featured, yet never further elaborated on by its safe approach. In fact, in many ways this film is shot and creatively reduced to feeling like a spoof of a movie like last year’s “Queen & Slim”, A movie with no shortage of depth to the social issues plaguing its film and countering society that it’s featured in. “The Lovebirds” writes such a predicament, then isn’t intelligent enough to use it for anything substantially moving or effectively reflective, making it just another cinematic statistic that ignores the bigger problem taking shape.
Strange coincidence – Three Kumail Nanjiani movies now have featured him in an Uber or Lyft in one way or another. Is this the new ‘Tom Hanks pissing in every movie’ cliche?
My Grade: 6/10 or C